This article was originally published by Mennonite World Review

Not so much to ask

Traveling from a Kansas county without a face-mask mandate to one that required the precaution gave a new perspective on freedom.

In Harvey County, where commissioners had exempted their constituents from Gov. Laura Kelly’s mask mandate, shoppers in Newton appraised each other’s appearance and wondered: Why weren’t more people doing their part to beat COVID-19? Who was making a political statement about “freedom”? Who was just being careless?

In Douglas County, a sign said: “We’re in this together.” Rules were clear, and people followed them. There was no need to judge others or suspect their motives. Support was expected for a common goal: protecting one another.

Requiring people to stretch a piece a cloth over their nose and mouth to block the spread of respiratory droplets didn’t destroy liberty or show weakness. In fact, it was freeing.

It embodied a biblical truth: The best use of freedom is to do good to others.

Gal. 5:13 describes believers’ responsibility to exercise their freedom for the common good: “For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another.”

The Apostle Paul distinguishes between freedom to sin and freedom to serve. Selfish indulgence binds us to sinful desires. Those who become slaves to sin forfeit their freedom.

And those who live where masks are required still choose their attitude. You can’t legislate love, but freedom in Christ guides our choice. “If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law” (Gal. 3:18). A follower of Christ who lives by the Spirit does not take liberty as a ­license to do wrong. We obey out of love, not fear of a harsh master.

A face covering may shield the wearer, but the higher purpose is to protect others. Gavin Yamey, a professor of global health and public policy at Duke University, wrote in Time: “While researchers at the University of Washington now predict that the U.S. could reach 180,000 COVID-19 deaths by October, they say we could prevent 33,000 of these deaths if at least 95 percent of people wore masks.”

The prospect of failure is frightening. John M. Barry, a professor at the Tulane University School of Public Health, wrote in The New York Times: “If we don’t get the growth of this pandemic under control now, in a few months, when the weather turns cold and forces more people indoors, we face a disaster that dwarfs the situation today.”

If dire warnings don’t convince, a fun song might. “Just Put on the Mask” by Doug Kreh­biel of Newton (with Jude Kreh­biel and Tom Szambecki) is on Doug Krehbiel’s Facebook page and YouTube channel:

Let’s not make this political,
it’s not so much to ask.
Brothers, sisters, have a heart,
let’s just put on the mask. . . .

When this thing is over
and we’re all in the know,
if wearing masks didn’t help,
you can say, “I told you so.”

But COVID rates are rising.
It’s no conspiracy.
The countries who’ve been masking up
are better off than we! . . .

Let’s love our neighbor as ourselves,
c’mon, take on this task.
Get this thing behind us,
and just put on the mask.

On July 13, Harvey County commissioners reversed course and approved the governor’s mask mandate.

Paul Schrag

Paul Schrag is editor of Anabaptist World. He lives in Newton, Kan., attends First Mennonite Church of Newton and is Read More

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