By Sewell Hall
I hate face masks. And apparently many share my dislike. I have learned of questions being raised in several congregations over the country regarding the right of elders to require them in the assemblies of the church.
States differ in their requirements. Surely wearing a face mask is not a sin and if the government authorities require it in church assemblies it seems to me that elders have no choice. The scriptures say, “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves” (Romans 13:1-4). We would expect elders to enforce ordinances against smoking in an assembly. And if we are to own a church building, we must comply with building codes that seem to make no sense at all.
In fact, whether elders require it or not, if it is a government ordinance, Christians should comply. “Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, 14 or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men” (1 Peter 2:13-15).
And even when the government does not require them, there are often brethren who feel very strongly about it and are offended if some do not wear them. Some feel so strongly about it that they fear to attend a service if some are not wearing them. Perhaps this is a weakness on their part but “We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2 Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification. 3 For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, ‘The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me’” (Romans 15:1-4).
Jesus gave Peter reasons why He should not have to pay the temple tax, but said, “Nevertheless, lest we offend them, go to the sea, cast in a hook, and take the fish that comes up first. And when you have opened its mouth, you will find a piece of money; take that and give it to them for Me and you” (Matthew 17:27). (Emphasis mine – SH)
Paul wrote to the Galatians, “In Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything” (5:6). Yet, when he wanted to take Timothy on a preaching trip with him “he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in that region, for they all knew that his father was Greek” (Acts 16:3).
Paul practiced such accommodations himself. “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; 20 and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; 22 to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some” (1 Corinthians 9:17-22).
“But I don’t see any sense in wearing face masks.” Perhaps not, but others do. “Fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. 3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself” (Philippians 2:2-3).
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