**revised on 10/23/2020 *** This document is intended to provide a specific response to government mask mandates based on God’s written law. It’s intended to answer these questions: Is it wrong for governments to issue mask mandates? If it is, should Christians obey the mandates anyway? If Christians shouldn’t obey, how are we to live?
The biblical role of government is given to us in a combination of Old and New Testament teaching. The laws that God gave to Moses, tell us what God expects of individuals. They tell us when an individual has violated God’s law and what the punishments for disobedience are. The New Testament provides more about what government’s role is today in relation to God’s previously defined laws. God spoke through Paul in Romans 13:1-7 and Peter in 1 Peter 2:11-17 and in these passages we learn that God gives civil government the right to discover which individuals have done wrong and to punish them for crimes with the punishments specified in the laws given to Moses. It’s important to remember that God provides a process to make sure that the crime was actually committed. Wrongfully punishing an innocent person is also treated as a crime. Crimes without a specific punishment are left for God alone to punish. For more on this, listen to Dr. Jason Lisle’s message on The Law of God.
Since God only tasks government with the job of punishing crimes with specified punishments, we are limited to determining if the law of Moses has a mask mandate or something like it, and if so, see if it has a punishment specified for breaking it. Surprisingly, there is a law that specifies a face covering:
““The leper in whom the plague is shall wear torn clothes, and the hair of his head shall hang loose. He shall cover his upper lip, and shall cry, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ All the days in which the plague is in him he shall be unclean. He is unclean. He shall dwell alone. His dwelling shall be outside of the camp.”Leviticus 13:45-46 (emphasis mine)
It’s interesting that the face covering requirement here only permits the covering of the mouth and not the nose. Future discussions could clarify the form of covering and the disease specified, but the most important thing to realize here is that that God’s mandate only specifies that a sick person be “masked.” The passage also specifies the process by which certain diseases are detected, none of which are asymptomatic. The process by which a person was determined to be sick was objective. It couldn’t have a “false positive” as many obscure tests have today. Once again, a false positive could end up putting a well person in isolation and that would be a violation of the law in regard to punishing the innocent. Read the first 44 verses of Leviticus 13 to get a more complete picture.
What we learn here is that there is no biblical mask mandate for a person who is not sick. Forcing people who are well to wear a mask is not only not biblical, it is in violation of biblical law. A well person is not to be put in jail for not wearing a mask. Also, there was no further requirements for the sick other than to be in isolation until their symptoms were clearly gone. It is quite clear that it is wrong for a government to mandate that masks be worn by well people based on this passage.
This answers the first question and we can move on to the next. Assuming the mask mandates are illegal, the question now is: Should we offend our leaders by refusing to comply? This is where the law gets more complicated.
Thankfully, it appears that God anticipated that we would encounter problems like these. When Paul was giving instructions to Christian converts, he had to deal with the fact that many of them were slaves. I am told that about 50% of the people living in the Roman empire were under some form of slavery. The Bible teaches us that all slavery is wrong for Christians. Here’s what it says:
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”Galatians 3:28
Paul was tasked by God to tell the slaves what to do when they became Christians while under human bondage. Since God didn’t see them as being any less than their masters, should they offend their masters and demand release? Should they run away? What should they do? I bring this to our attention, because the same principle appears to apply to us regarding mask mandates. When our leadership decides to require us to do something God doesn’t, we are being forced into slavery. When we, as Christians, find ourselves enslaved to a government, we are in a similar situation. So let’s look at what Paul told slaves like us to do:
“Let each man stay in that calling in which he was called. Were you called being a bondservant? Don’t let that bother you, but if you get an opportunity to become free, use it. For he who was called in the Lord being a bondservant is the Lord’s free man. Likewise he who was called being free is Christ’s bondservant. You were bought with a price. Don’t become bondservants of men. Brothers, let each man, in whatever condition he was called, stay in that condition with God.”1 Corinthians 7:20-24
God tells us that if we find ourselves enslaved to a man as a Christian that we take any opportunity to be free available. If we apply this to mask wearing, it would appear to be saying that if we find ourselves forced by the government to wear a mask, even though they shouldn’t be mandating it, we should go ahead and comply until we can find a way to be free legally. At this point, It may appear that we have answered the second question, but there are more complications to consider.
One of the many amazing things about God’s law is that He applied His laws directly to individuals. It would appear that it is upon this fact that human liberty is founded. The Bible teaches that when a government or a master tells an individual to do something that goes against God’s law, that the individual is to obey God instead of man.
“When they had brought them, they set them before the council. The high priest questioned them, saying, “Didn’t we strictly command you not to teach in this name? Behold, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and intend to bring this man’s blood on us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.”Acts 5:27-29
The Jewish leadership of Peter’s time had requested that they stop spreading the word about Jesus, but God had already told them to do the opposite. Even though they were obligated to follow the Jewish leadership by God’s law, they had to disobey and suffer for it in order to be obedient to the law of God as an individual. This behavior was also clearly demonstrated by the Old Testament prophets.
So the next question we must answer is: “Does God tell us to not wear a mask?”
There isn’t a specific law in the Bible that tells a person that he can’t wear a mask. So, if we base our decision on this, it would appear that we are required to obey our governmental masters and wear masks, but once again, there’s more complication in the law that we must consider.
There is a condition, specified in the New Testament, in which it is wrong to do something that we would otherwise be free to do. It’s a significant doctrine of New Testament Christianity and has to do with meat sacrificed to idols. During the Roman rule, pagans would take their best meat and offer it up to the gods like Zeus and Hermes. The temple workers would then take this meat and sell it in the market as the meat that was sacrificed to the gods. Everyone knew that this was the best of the best. Christians and Jews had qualms with this. This was sacrificed to an idol so some thought that eating this meat was like participating in idol worship. Paul said that it wasn’t wrong, individually, as long the individual had enough knowledge to realize that Zeus wasn’t a real god. Even so, there was a wrong way for this individual to use this freedom. Here’s the problem:
“For though there are things that are called “gods”, whether in the heavens or on earth; as there are many “gods” and many “lords”; yet to us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and we live through him. However, that knowledge isn’t in all men. But some, with consciousness of the idol until now, eat as of a thing sacrificed to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled.”1 Corinthians 8:5-7
Paul warns the knowledgeable that they must pay attention to what their actions portray to those around them. I believe that the term used today is: “signaling.” Back then, if you were caught eating at the the temple to Zeus, a “weak” Christian might see you and decide that it’s actually O.K. to worship Jesus and Zeus. The knowledgeable Christian would be signaling the wrong thing to the ignorant person, effectively destroying his weak faith. Even though we are free to eat anywhere, it becomes wrong again when what we are signalling destroys someone else, causing them to sin.
So, before we conclude that it’s O.K. to wear face masks under our current conditions, we must ask ourselves: “Would our mask wearing signal something inappropriate to those around us?”
I believe that this is where we all must make our own personal assessment. If you don’t believe that we are in a public health emergency, and you indicate the opposite to those around you, you are lying and that is a violation of the 9th commandment. In fact, you might be misleading those who have less knowledge than you and causing them to act irrationally. This issue can have very serious consequences in society as a whole. As Churches are being sued and pastors going to jail, it’s pretty obvious that the government can’t be trusted with too much power. Would we, by wearing a mask, make people believe that the government needs to continue to control our lives as they take away more and more liberty?
The Coronavirus is no longer a public health emergency in most places in the United States and it may have never been. Statewide mask mandates may create a false signal that there actually is a public health emergency when there actually isn’t one anymore. I don’t know why our leaders would force us to do this. Perhaps its because they don’t believe in God and His power to help us, but here’s what God’s law says to us:
“You shall not spread a false report. Don’t join your hand with the wicked to be a malicious witness.”Exodus 23:1
In my earlier version of this document, I asserted that I thought wearing a mask would almost always be signalling to others that we believe that there is a health emergency. I have since come to believe that most people are aware that we are under a mandate and because of that, we are merely “signalling” to each other that we are obeying the authorities.
That being said, you may be forced to wear a mask in order to buy groceries or to do your job. It doesn’t really matter what you are signalling at that point. Everyone knows that they have been forced to do something against their will by the authorities. That places us back under slavery only this is slavery by forces outside of ourselves. We shouldn’t willingly place ourselves under the mandate, but it has become clear that the mandates have been imposed upon us against our will.
I don’t think it is good for us to just go along with mask mandates, however. One loss of freedom will likely lead to another. Instead, I believe that we should do everything in our power to stop them. On thing we can do is to ask our pastors, police and sheriff to disregard these wrongful mandates. We can call on “lesser magistrates” to help protect us by seeking them out and rallying around them when they take their stand against the illegal laws of the higher authorities.
If you are one of those lesser magistrates, or if you are simply one under authority and want to know more, here’s a link to The Doctrine of the Lesser Magistrates. A lesser magistrate can be a local sheriff, a city council member, a governor, a district attorney and others. When someone is willing to take a stand, we need to let them know we are right behind them. Amazing freedom has returned to people when lesser magistrates have taken a stand.
Finally, as with any injustice of man, it is our duty as believers to remember who we are fighting. Although it is true that those who oppress us are human, the Bible tells us that the real enemy cannot be seen. Let’s stay focused on what God wants us to focus on.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world’s rulers of the darkness of this age, and against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”Ephesians 6:10-13
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