I recently posted an article from thestream.org on my personal Facebook page and on Twitter (@UnfazedLeaders) which discussed whether it's the right thing to do to wear as mask in public, in the midst of this pandemic, regardless of whether mandated by law.
The article specifically addresses Christians, but I think the question is just as valid for anyone who seeks to be a Servant Leader.
A friend responded that many places mandate the wearing of masks by governmental authority. This is true, and is also the subject of much controversy.
I understand that there are such mandates, but whether or not it is (or should be) the law (or is constitutional to make such a law) is not the heart of the issue.
The article explicitly makes the point that loving our neighbors should be our primary concern, regardless of whether or not the law compels us to either take a certain action or abstain from a certain action.
For that reason, I will deliberately NOT argue this from the standpoint of whether government could or should compel this. For me, that misses the point entirely and takes us down a rabbit trail of partisanship, emotion and bitterness. I’m not going there.
Note also the the ethic presented in the article is intended to instruct Christian believers, not to preach to non-believers.
For believers and for Servant Leaders, we must decide in our hearts how we can act to best “love our neighbors as ourselves.”
Sometimes that means doing things, or not doing things, purely out of love, regardless of our personal beliefs about whether the law mandates those things one way of another. That includes sometimes putting aside our personal needs and wants in order to extend grace to others, such that our behavior does not “cause them to stumble” or such that our behavior is seen as unloving.
This is expressed explicitly in Scripture in a couple of places and implicitly in many more. The gist is that arguing about whether doing something (or not doing something) based solely on the law is a losing game. A better question is:
"Does it demonstrate love to my neighbor?”
I’ll cite a few examples of this from Scripture (and I urge you to understand this in the larger context of extended discussions about the place of law versus grace). Whether you reverence Scripture or not, there is much wisdom in these passages and they are instructional for any leader.
The first is from Romans 14. It’s worth reading the whole chapter (and indeed the whole book) for context, but verses 13-19 provide a good summary in the context of whether or not it is permissible (by the law) to eat or drink certain things. Paul argues that the strict requirements of the law are beside the point if our actions are harmful to others:
“Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” (Rom. 14:13–19 ESV).
Another good example is 1 Corinthians 8. The entire chapter provides context surrounding the question (again) of whether or not the laws forbids a believer from eating certain kinds of food). It is summarized in verse 13, which revisits the idea that believers should act in a way that demonstrates love for others such that our behavior does not force them to stumble.
We (as believers and Servant Leaders) can essentially (voluntarily) give up our legal rights if it means being more loving to our neighbors.
That leaves more questions about how I can best love my neighbor.
I’ll leave that for another day.
A few people have gently pushed me to get into the controversy of the science, the statistics and the politics of this. That is something I’d rather avoid.
One reason I am loathe to get into the weeds regarding the “science” or the “statistics” here, is that it’s obvious that there is no solid consensus. If there was such consensus, we would not all be parading out our disagreeing experts.
I also have little personal expertise in either of those areas, and I’m guessing most of you don’t either. As such, our tendency is to appeal to those experts that we have chosen as representative of our opinions, and to vilify the rest.
I have taken a lot of courses in statistics both at the undergraduate and graduate levels. I have used stats in a significant way in my job over the years. However I’ll always remember my first day of stats (I believe as a sophomore) at Marion Military Institute.
As I recall, the teacher was Colonel “Sweet Paul” Reed. Colonel Reed was a no-nonsense infantryman.
In introducing us to statistics, Sweet Paul repeated the famous aphorism “There are liars, there are damn liars, and there are statisticians.”
The point is, and I have seen this first hand over many years, there are always ways to spin the data to say anything you want. Statisticians are masters at that.
For that reason, I take the pronouncement of so-called “experts” with a grain of salt.
I don’t get hung up on things where there is clearly some sort of personal agenda which is being driven.
There are very few people, including scientists, who don’t have some sort of personal agenda at some level. Unfortunately, many of those agendas eventually become rooted in politics.
You can have your experts. I’ll just sit back and ask ‘what is right?” “What is good?”
Rather than merely trumpeting my chosen experts, I TRY to make my default in all of these discussions the simple lesson from Micah 6:8 —
“He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”