A professor of medicine at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California writes a column in the Dallas Morning News as to why Jesus would wear a face mask during the COVID-19 pandemic. In this post Dr. Karl Lorenz draws upon his time among the Baptists in the Southern United States. Again this blog would encourage you to wear your face mask.
“We must show our Christian colors if we are to be true to Jesus Christ.”
Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see
Hebrews 11:1 NLT
As I am working on another post I saw this in the news feed from the Dallas Morning News. Its by a professor of medicine at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. Dr. Karl Lorenz wrote about his time in the south and asked the question – what would Jesus do when it came to a face mask during a pandemic? Jesus would wear as he taught to put others ahead of themself. I want to add this article to my posts dealing with evangelicals in the COPVID-19 pandemic. The original article is called, “What would Jesus do during COVID-19? He would wear a mask.”
As a teenager in Georgia in the 1970s, I spent considerable time with Baptist youth groups, where a widely admired book was In His Steps. The book challenged me to ask a simple question at the heart of Christian identity, “What would Jesus do?” In a series of fictional vignettes, the book illustrates how this question could prompt reflection and a change of heart.
Asking “What would Jesus do?” now seems quite useful — as a way to reflect on our choices as moral, rather than political, during the COVID-19 pandemic. What would Jesus do if asked to wear a mask?
Today I’m a physician in California. Growing up in Georgia, churches were more common than gas stations, but saints were rarer than the occasional Yankee. I knew about Yankees because I was one, and I knew about saints because I wasn’t one. We were Lutherans and my parents were from Wisconsin. I didn’t always fit in that well in some Southern circles. I suppose the need to find myself was one of the reasons I started to visit the Baptists, and they greatly influenced my thinking.
The New Testament book of Galatians celebrates Christian freedom, declaring that it is “for freedom that Christ has set us free.” However, it offers a caution not to use freedom for self-indulgence, but rather “to serve one another in love.” God frees us from selfish inclinations so that we have the power to use our choices differently. From God’s perspective, our freedom is intended to be used for others’ benefit. Might using our freedom from selfishness to love others apply to mask wearing?
Christian love is defined as putting the needs of others above our own, exemplified in an ultimate way through Jesus’ sacrifice for humanity on the cross. We can imitate Jesus’ example of love in our physical care for others. In the biblical parable of the sheep and goats, the speaker finds fault even with indifference or what “we do not do” in the face of others’ needs. Wearing a mask is the opposite of indifference — it actively demonstrates to members of our community that we care about them.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, caring for others means safeguarding those who may face the highest health risks. Recent research shows a much higher risk of dying among older people, men, those with underlying health conditions and people of color. Often, serious but common health risks like underlying asthma or diabetes or even cancer are hidden from others. Showing that we care for our neighbors means wearing a mask because we don’t take others’ lives for granted.
It is more and more clear that wearing a mask probably helps, and it doesn’t require much of a sacrifice to wear one. Basic studies of viruses and recent studies of communities that required masks support that it’s effective. That is reason enough, since it’s hardly much of a sacrifice to put up with the discomfort of a mask when the risk to some neighbors is great. Until we know more about preventing COVID-19, keeping your distance and wearing a mask are the most important ways to show you care.
The Bible praises examples of sacrifice that are small but done for the right reason. The Pharisees were ancient Israel’s example of a bombastic political class — always doing things to show off. In contrast, Jesus expressed his pleasure in “hidden things,” or in the case of an elderly widow, even trivial acts like giving a handful of cheap copper coins out of love for God. Jesus is interested in the deeper motives behind what we do, and the motive he values most is love.
One doesn’t have to be a Christian to appreciate these principles that are valued by various religions. Even secular philosophers embrace the idea that we should act to benefit others, as if we had been born into their place in life. Although small children have died from the infection, you might be lucky and not get sick when you’ve got COVID-19. But the issue isn’t about you. It’s about your freedom to serve others.
What would Jesus do? He’d wear a mask.
Dr. Karl Lorenz is section chief of palliative care programs and a professor of medicine at Stanford School of Medicine. He wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News.