Recently, I saw evidence of a reputable Christian who holds a staunch view of one side of the mask debate encounter a business owner holding a different view, and the confrontation that followed. In such a situation, how should a modern-day disciple of Jesus respond?
This Christian may be typical of many who firmly believe that requiring them to wear a mask violates their freedom and signifies an overreach. Obviously, this business owner represents many others who, either by civil regulation or by personal preference, prefer that all customers, Christians as well as non-Christians, don the face coverings for potential protection for their employees and other patrons.
In such a scenario, what should be of greater concern to the Christian: personal inconvenience or something higher?
Christians have divided over many things for millennia. Tongues, or no tongues. Baptism by immersion versus baptism by sprinkling. Calvinism or Armenianism. But now we divide over a MASK? How far we have fallen can be clearly seen by how separated we have become about a simple face covering.
Both sides of the debate have valid points, passionate devotion, and unyielding resolve. Both sides enjoy God-given freedom to hold their views and express them freely without fear of reprisal.
But, at what cost? What price has the body of Christ paid to take such strong stands against each other? Has either side even thought about how the position they hold, and the way they defend it, reflects on the name of Jesus they bear to the world around them?
Within the body of Christ, I see an abysmal abandonment of one of the core arts of Christianity: a sincere care for the HONOR of our Lord’s name. It seems that many Christians have abdicated any responsibility for living daily lives with even a smidgen of honor among people they encounter. How will the world ever see God’s name receiving due reverence if the people of God do not reflect His holy name with honor to them? In a situation where our preferences conflict with a businessperson’s free right to set policy over their establishment, should we not think first about Jesus’ name that we bear?
Can we take a moment and look beyond the physical product we are dividing over – a mask – and rather, cast a higher gaze to a much bigger issue? What has this argument produced within the body of Christ? Is this all it takes to get some Christians so upset that they spew divisive words and evoke either like passions from some or heated exchanges with others? And, more importantly than any of these, the greatest question to me remains, “What does this divide do to the HONOR of our Lord’s name?”
Seeing even pastors begin to get entangled in the fray of this debate upsets me. It made me weep in prayer, crying out for God to restore one thing to His Church: The HONOR of His name!
In the Scriptures, the Hebrew word for honor is “kabod” with its derivative “kabad.” Kabod signifies weight, value, a preciousness, something reputable. Do we not recognize that the reputation of our Lord resides, in a sense, with us and how we wear His name? Whether we wear a mask or not, Christians always wear the name of Jesus.
Christians were so named in Antioch, according to Acts 11:26. I have heard, and concur, with the understanding that this can be understood as “little Christs.” C. S. Lewis wrote, in Mere Christianity, “Every Christian is to become a little Christ. The whole purpose of becoming a Christian is simply nothing less.”
“Little Christs” indicates that we live, move, operate, and speak in the same way that Jesus Christ would. We truly become “followers” of Him. We watch how He lives, how He responds, and how He treats people in situations. And then, we do likewise. It’s actually quite simple to understand – much harder to do, ‘tis true.
But every Christian, nevertheless, should aspire to become a “little Christ.” Truly, we are to be His reflection in the earth, sharing His love and light. His primary goal throughout His entire earthly ministry was to bring glory and honor to His Father God. If we are “little Christs”, should not this also be ours?
If we take this seriously, and seek to bring God honor with our lives, it should translate into everyday situations and encounters with people who cross our paths. When we live our lives seeking the honor of our Lord who died for us, it will govern how we handle all situations – yes, including the Mask Debate.
When did the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ stop caring about bringing HONOR to the name they carry? When did the Church of Jesus forget about the suffering servant who gave His life for us and calls us to be His ambassadors to a lost and dying world? How did we sink so low that we would dishonor Jesus’ name over a senseless mask debate? And, why doesn’t it bother us that we have sunk to these levels? This core question causes me the most anguish, as I observe the two sides charging forward.
When did Christianity forsake the essence of living our lives to please and honor the Lord who bled and died horrifically for us? The Lord who denied Himself so that we could have eternal life and blessings now and in the future? When did we stop caring about the NAME we bear everywhere we go and to everyone we know?
Whatever position we may hold on the debate itself, we must not let pride, arrogance, or even righteous anger allow us to dishonor our Lord Jesus. We should never allow anything to override our care and love for Him first, and for people next. A mask is nothing of any eternal worth, but every person we encounter is! Let us direct our attention and efforts into what matters on an eternal scale. And let us never bring shame to the name of the Savior we love.
When Jesus walked the earth and chose His disciples, the call was always the same: “Follow Me!” In essence, He was saying, “Come. Do life with me. Watch how I respond, and then you do the same. Listen to the way I speak and interact with others, and then do likewise.” The world may not live under such a mandate. But the Christian does. The old acronym, WWJD (What Would Jesus Do), might be good to remember.
Considering Christ’s example shows us a life of self-sacrifice, especially in exchange for outcomes of eternal value. Learning from His example shows us righteous anger only, and always, directed at things or people that were willfully dishonoring the Father or leading people away from the truth of His Word. (See Matthew 21:12-13, Mark 11:15-17, Luke 19:45 & John 2:13-17) In fulfillment of Psalm 69:9, Jesus’ zeal – His passion or fervor – burned to see the honor of His Father’s name and His truth restored to His house and His people. Never do we see an example where He resisted out of any personal inconvenience or desire. As a matter of fact, he lived with the desire not to accomplish His own will, but only His Father’s.
The Apostles followed suit. In Acts, we see them submitting to authority, seeking to honor Christ’s name in all matters, and caring for the people across their paths. Any defiance they exhibited always resulted from attacks against Jesus and the Gospel message – never for any personal inconveniences of their own. Paul suffered many personal inconveniences, even persecutions, but chose to fight only a good fight. (See 2 Timothy 4:7) By writing this, he implies that there are “wrong” or “bad” fights the Christian needs to avoid.
Stephen, on his deathbed at the hands of his persecutors, followed the exact pattern of his Lord Jesus when he, too, cried out for God to forgive those who were murdering him. (See Acts 7:60)
None of these examples let their “rights” interfere with the higher demands of the moment: bringing HONOR to Father God and the name of Jesus.
When we allow ourselves to sink into miry pits of arguing and dividing over senseless causes and earthly opinions, then we succumb to the wisdom of the world, not that which is from above. In James 3:17, he explains God’s wisdom and lists its characteristics:
Fighting one another, especially over such temporal matters, only reveals the failure to operate in God’s wisdom. Paul concurs in 1 Corinthians 12:25, when he speaks against schisms in the body of Christ. Although the heavenly wisdom James describes may be difficult to do, the result is well worth the effort. And God’s Holy name remains honored – the highest reward of all!
In Revelation 5:12-13, a song arises declaring Jesus’ worthiness to receive certain acclamations, one of which is HONOR. Honor is prescribed as being due to the Lamb, Jesus, and to the Father on the Throne. He is, and always will be, worthy of our honor – in every situation, every day.
Therefore, the impetus for every Christian propels us to endeavor to ascribe to Him the HONOR He is due. May our driving force daily be an earnest resolution to live in such a way as to avoid any senseless divide and to bring Him the worth He deserves.
Let’s reclaim the lost art of esteeming our Lord’s name in whatever situation we find ourselves! May the body of Christ rediscover the lost art of HONOR!