If we were to put the beliefs regarding the necessity of wearing facemasks on a scale, like you, I would have friends at every post on the scale, from the far left to the far right as well as a smattering decorating the middle.
On one end of the scale there are people who demand that everyone wear a mask. They are completely offended by anyone who won’t take such a simple precaution to protect themselves and others. On the other end of the scale are those who absolutely refuse to wear a mask, citing civil liberties and doctors who say masks aren’t helpful and may even be harmful for healthy people.
Even as you read this, you may be able to identify where you fall on the scale. And maybe your blood pressure is starting to rise at the thought of someone disagreeing with your point of view.
Stay with me. I’m not going to try to dispute or sway your belief whatever it may be. My hope, however, is to encourage us all to consider how we speak to and think about others who hold opposing beliefs—about masks—or anything else.**
As with any closely held belief, the people on the far ends of the scale are fully convinced their beliefs are right; there seems to be no room for any other perspective than their own. In some cases, particularly in the safety of online posting, people speak out with anger towards those not solidly in their own camp.
Humility isn’t a factor in their choice of words. The only thing that matters is convincing others of their rightness, and the tools of choice are barbed statements fueled by as much outrage, shaming language, and self-righteousness as can be mustered.
It seems that Apostle Peter’s encouragement in 1 Peter 5 is relevant to this conversation:
“Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.“
—1 Peter 5:5-7
Humility is easy—until someone disagrees with us.
When pride and fear mix, they create a toxic concoction that destroys relationships. The fears that erode humility aren’t exclusive to the “mask” conversation. No matter our beliefs, when they are opposed,
• We fear people will think less of us.
• We fear others’ actions may harm us or someone we love.
• We fear our rights may be taken away.
• We fear we may be wrong.
• We fear others will think we are wrong—even though, of course, we are right.
Maybe Peter, under the Holy Spirit’s direction, put these verses together so we could find the antidote to the pride-fear poison: to humble ourselves enough to relinquish ALL of those fears to God. That is certainly easier said than done. Fear, like the roaring lion mentioned in the next verses, are difficult to escape. Our only hope is God!
In truth, it doesn’t matter what people think about us. What matters is what people think about God because of us. If our fear-filled attitudes and prideful words detract or turn others away from Him, we are in the wrong, even if what we believe IS right.
When we cling to our fears and strive to “win” the argument, too often, we lose the relationship. And the relationship is what really matters. We must lay down our barbed words and angry, prideful attitudes to save our relationships. That’s part of what it means to die to ourselves. If we really want to win the relationship, we will strive to live and love like Jesus.
Wear a mask.
We are blessed to live in a country that offers you a choice.
Whatever your choice, whatever my choice, may our words and attitudes be steeped not in fear or pride, but in the love of Jesus.
After all, love is what Jesus died for. And because of Him, we don’t have to live in fear.
**If masks aren’t an issue for you, feel free to replace the word “mask” with whatever point of contention causes your blood to boil. The same antidote applies to politics, doctrines, etc. My point isn’t that we have to change our beliefs, but we may need to check the way we express them.