Face Masks, Love of Neighbor, and the Lordship of Christ
July 16, 2020 Speaker: Josh DeGroote
Topic: Lordship of Christ Passage: James 2:8–2:8
Welcome to the living by faith podcast, my name is Josh DeGroote and this is episode number twelve. Thanks for listening. This is a podcast where I take a look at some news items, theology, and history from the perspective of the Christian’s life of faith in Jesus Christ. Let’s jump in.
What would Jesus do? Ever heard that phrase? I’m sure you have. Well, recently this question of what would Jesus do has been employed to help us think about what Jesus would do in regards to face masks. Would Jesus wear a face mask? Well, this question has been asked (and answered) by many. And their answer is a resounding “YES”! Jesus would wear a face mask, and he would wear one because it is the loving and selfless thing to do. We are told that even though face masks are uncomfortable and annoying and inconvenient, Jesus would wear them and we should too. Love requires sacrifice and it is the least thing we can do in order to save lives.
Now, before I get into my response to this, I want to say that I do not believe it is wrong to wear a mask. I am not on a crusade to trumpet the inherent sinfulness of wearing masks. I do not begrudge businesses requiring masks, in some cases simply to be able to keep their doors open. And if I had to go to Costco - they require masks - I would wear one and not put up a stink about it in the least.
My problem is two-fold. One is that mask-wearing is being held up as the pinnacle of virtue. This is the signal that you are a loving person. You are loving your neighbor now. And we know Jesus would do this. Loving your neighbor apparently now means wearing masks and stay away from them - even if you are healthy (and they are healthy). This is neighbor love. I’m not so sure.
The second thing that really concerns me about this however is, that the government's role in mandating this - with the big stick of hefty fines in some cases for not wearing a mask. This is very dubious, especially when the verdict is still out on the effectiveness of them - especially just a cloth mask. We were told initially, almost dismissively by Tony Fauci (the most famous doctor in America) that face masks would do nothing. The Surgeon General said the same thing. Then we were told to wear them, then not, and now the big push again is wear the masks. And remember, this is loving.
Most recently, just two days ago, the head of the CDC, Dr. Robert Redfield, said “If all of us would put on a face covering for the next 4-6 weeks, we could drive this epidemic to the ground.” Remember, the shutdown in March was to “flatten the curve”. Now the point is to put COVID-19 into the ground.
As Christians, we are sons and daughters of God not slaves of the state. And I’m concerned we are being conditioned to look to the state unquestioningly for what we are to do and how we are to love our neighbor. Again, we are children of God, not slaves of the state. We owe the state submission, but not unswerving allegiance. In Matthew 22, when asked whether it was lawful to pay taxes to Rome, Jesus took a coin and asked whose inscription was on it. And because Caesar's image is stamped on the coin, pay taxes. No problem. But then he says “and render to God that which is God’s.” Think about this question, what bears God’s stamp or inscription? You and I do. We may not give ourselves to the state. We do not belong to them.
So would Jesus wear a mask out of love for neighbor? Perhaps in some instances. But he would not wear the mask as an insignia or symbol of the state and submission to the state because that would be unlawful. We live in a time when the state is grabbing for more power. And COVID-19 has been weaponized as a political missile to cease more power. Therefore, we need to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.
The next section is the catechesis section. For centuries Christians gave themselves to the practice of learning the doctrines of the Christian faith by way of a catechism. Catechesis simply means to teach orally or instruct by word of mouth. This is a practice that is sorely missed in our day and I think we would benefit tremendously by taking it up again, and so I want to do my part to promote the practice of catechesis. Mention “Children’s Mode”.
All that said, I’m making my way through a modern catechism called New City Catechism. It takes the form of 52 questions and answers with scripture - so one for each week. You can buy the book online or you can download the app on your phone for free. So we are on question 11 this week:
Question 12: What does God require in the ninth and tenth commandments?
Answer 12: Ninth, that we do not lie or deceive, but speak the truth in love. Tenth, that we are content, not envying anyone or resenting what God has given them or us.
The ninth command is “you shall not bear a false witness against your neighbor”, or shorthand, “you shall not lie”. The positive side of it is, telling the truth or speaking the truth in love. This is such an important thing for us to remember. We’ve all heard the little kids rhyme, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” But we have all probably had someone lie about us or to us and what does that do? It hurts. Much harm is done in our world with words. Romans 3:10-18 sums up the sin problem of all humanity and much of it has to do with sinning with our mouths (examples). James 3 says our tongues are a restless evil. The devil is the father of lies and those who belong to him will be liars as well. We live in a world run through with deceit and lies. We live in a world run through with deceit and lies. But as Christians forgiven and indwelt by the Spirit, we love our neighbor by speaking the truth about him and telling the truth to him in love.
The tenth and final commandment is “you shall not covet.” It’s interesting that the second table of the law (commands 5-10) ends with this. We know that the whole law of God is summed up in loving God and neighbor. So the commands 5-10 have to do with loving neighbor. And the relevance and importance and practicality of this is seen in the tenth commandment, “you shall not covet”. Coveting comes from a heart of envy. Jealousy at what your neighbor has, whether it be his house, car, job, wife, opportunities, looks, or whatever else it is. We are not
Now again, the law is summed up in love. Loving God and loving our neighbor, which Christ has fulfilled for us in the perfection of his life and atoning death. And we are to fulfill progressively through the strength and power of the Spirit. And so, we love our neighbor by telling the truth and not bearing false witness about him and by not being envious of him, and coveting what he has.
James 2:8 - If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.
Well, last week I said I had one other man I wanted to tell you about who died under the tyrannical reign of the infamous “Bloody Mary”. But before I tell you about him, I want to ask a question. Have you ever thought about what you would do if you were threatened…? Would you have the strength to stand firm or would you fold? Well, let’s look at the story of Thomas Cranmer…
Thomas Cranmer was a very well-known leader in the Church of England and I need to make a minor correction from last week. It was Thomas Cranmer who is regarded as the primary author The Common Book of Prayer and the Articles of Religion - two extremely important books that laid down biblical principles of worship for the Church of England. Nicholas Ridley helped Cranmer, but it was Cranmer who spearheaded the effort.
Well, while Bishops Ridley and Latimer were burning at the stake, Cranmer dressed in rags still languished in a prison cell. His abusers scraped his hands and fingers raw, signifying that he was no longer a minister in the church. But Cramer refused to deny his faith, his writings, or condemn the Protestant Reformation. Seeing that abuse and torment wasn’t working, Cranmer’s persecutors (Roman Catholic Priests) changed their tactics. They transferred him from a dark, dingy dungeon cell to a comfortable room in a nice home - the home of a faculty member at Oxford. The priests flattered Cranmer and lavished kindness on him, urging him to return to the Roman Catholic Church.
They urged him, “Dr. Cranmer, just recant some of your views and you will win the queen’s favor and be restored to your position in the church.” Sadly, little by little, Cranmer agreed until finally, he signed his name to a paper which renounced all teachings not in a agreement with the church of Rome and acknowledged the Pope as the supreme head of the church, and apologized for leading people away from Rome.
Well, despite his confession, Bloody Mary insisted he be put to death and sentenced him to be burned at the stake. The location of his execution overflowed with spectators who had come to hear Cranmer speak and watch him die. When Cranmer was given an opportunity to speak, something completely unexpected happened. With tears in his eyes and a solemn tone, he urged the crowd to love one another and care for the poor and then he said the following.
I come to the great thing which troubles my conscience more than anything I ever did in my whole life. I now renounce the things written with my hand against the truth in my heart. I feared death. I wrote the recantation tion to save my life. And because my hand has offended, writing against my heart, therefore my hand shall be punished first, for when I conic to the fire it shall be burned first. And as for the pope, I refuse him as Christ's enemy with all his false doctrines.
Well, the crowd began to erupt in shouts for him to be shut up and burned. Calling him a heretic. Guards quickly rushed him to the same spot where Cranmer’s friends and co-laborers Ridley and Latimer were killed. And they lit the kindling. As the fire began to rise, Cranmer, true to this word, stretched out his right hand and held it in the flames unflinchingly and eventually Cranmer died in the flames. What a story of the faithfulness of God. Faithfulness to keep his own, Thomas Cranmer from making a final shipwreck of his faith and bearing witness to Christ with his dying breath. Charles Spurgeon said he was once asked if he would have the courage to burn at the stake and his answer is right on and so helpful. He said,
“It is hard for me to say while sitting in this comfortable home on this cushioned chair, but if the time came for me to burn for my Lord, I am sure he would give the grace for me to do so.”
We too can have this confidence. If called upon to suffer for our Lord, we will receive the grace to do so just when we need it. The Lord is faithful!
Thanks again for listening to the living by faith podcast. If you found it helpful, please subscribe, like, and share. Until next time, “may the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Spirit be with you all.”