Matthew Pevarnik, a writer for BioLogos, has a June 10th article entitled “Walking by Faith and Wearing a Mask”. Matt is an assistant professor of Physics at Regent University (PhD, University of California, Irvine). He notes that Scriptures that exhort us to “walk by faith and not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7) and that faith is being sure of something that we do not see (Hebrews 11:1), have special meaning to him because as a biophysicist he regularly deals with particles and structures that cannot be seen by the unaided human eye.
Why does the Bible tell us to believe in the unseen? Because we can have confidence that the one telling us that he loves us and cares about us and is working all things for our good is the same God who created all things and rules over all that he created. In other words, we can trust and know that God is working because of the assurance that we have in Scripture, even though we can’t see him. Matt says:
This kind of faith in an unseen reality is similar to my approach to my biophysics research. I can have a lot of confidence in things that I can’t see with my unaided senses by collecting various pieces of evidence. I can test how large the nanometer-sized channel is by measuring the transport of chloride ions through the channel. I can measure the size of particles through the resistive pulse method. But at the end of the day, I still can’t see one of my nanopores nor any changes I try to make to its surface chemistry. All I can do is perform the various measurements that give me the confidence that I really am seeing the unseen.
He then relates how the other day he was at a church service of about 40 people and realized he was he only one wearing a mask. Matt says:
One person came up to me and asked me if I was afraid, to which I promptly replied that I wasn’t. Upon further reflection, I realized that I don’t wear a face mask out of fear, but I wear it out of faith. Funny enough, a few days after attending that church service, I started having shortness of breath and upper respiratory pain (COVID-19 test ended up being negative). Still, I am glad that I wore a mask even when I had no symptoms for the sake of those around me.
There are still significant partisan and demographic divides, but they’re not so pronounced as to leave the two parties diametrically opposed. Rather, the gap is a matter of degrees, with a broad majority of Democrats and a more modest majority of Republicans offering support for masks and rejecting the idea that wearing them is a pointless practice or a sign of weakness.
Well, that seems to be mostly good news, except I am concerned that too many of the Republican contrarians are evangelicals who are like the church people Matt cited above who think wearing a mask is a lack of faith and is giving into fear. Matt points out that with any new virus there is a lot of uncertainty and conflicting narratives. He points out there is also a growing list of retracted COVID-19 papers.
Nevertheless, despite the uncertainty, there are certain things that scientists have learned about COVID-19, including:
- Infected people who never have symptoms (asymptomatic) and infected people who are not showing symptoms yet (presymptomatic) can spread the virus to others.
- Respiratory droplets containing the virus are exhaled from infected individuals when they cough, sneeze, sing, talk, and breathe, this is a major way the virus spreads to others.
- Face masks reduce the amount of respiratory droplets that circulate in the air and infect other people.
The fact that asymptomatic or presymptomatic individuals can “unseeingly” spread the virus to others is, in itself, an excellent reason to wear a face mask “by faith.” Matt says that it is part of our Christian duty to “love our neighbors” to not unknowingly spread a disease to them. Part of a Christian walk by faith includes times of “light momentary affliction” (1 Cor. 4:17-18) which would certainly include any inconvenience or discomfort we might have by wearing a mask. Matt cites “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. -Philippians 2:4” which I believe is a valid application of the Scripture passage as he goes on to note:
While I am not personally in an at-risk category, I don’t wear the face mask for me. I wear it for the 13 million Americans over 65 that live in multigenerational households who can’t just “cocoon away” while the rest of the population gets herd immunity, or for those that have or live with those asthma, chronic heart disease, diabetes, cancer diagnosed in the last year, hematological malignancies like leukemia and lymphoma, or had an organ transplant and more. What if my wearing a mask could have saved the life of a single mother of six who beat breast cancer? Scripture testifies to God’s special compassion for those that are the most vulnerable, for the poor or widows, or the foreigner in the land, and this is a small way that we look out for them, or metaphorically “leave our grain for the fatherless, the widow and the foreigner” (Deuteronomy 24:19).
Of course, I am in complete agreement with Matt here. I think most of here at Imonk would also be in agreement. I am posting this in the (vain) hope that any contrarian might take a second look at their position and reconsider, especially if they profess Christ, that it would be a loving act of faith to wear a mask in their public outings. Please… please… I’ll let Matt have the last word:
For God did not give us a Spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control. -2 Timothy 1:7
This is not a time to be afraid, but a time to confidently put our trust in what science has learned about God’s creation. It is a time to be examples and blessings to our community, as one West Virginia church spent Easter making masks and other personal protective equipment for healthcare providers. And even when it is uncomfortable, I ask myself at the end of the day, would I be okay if I accidentally got a third of my church sick with several people dying due to my “comfort” and my “allergies?” Wearing a face mask is a great way to love your neighbor as yourself and to set an example for others to follow, even if you have to use a little faith.