Unmasking the Essential Issue

Andy Cornell
Andy Cornell

I don’t like wearing a mask.

I don’t like the fog produced on eyeglass lenses. Fiddling with elastic straps is a pain. I hate how the straps sometimes get into a battle with my precious (and pricey) hearing devices, causing them to come loose. I don’t need yet another impediment to the effective enunciation of words, making verbal communication even more difficult.

That’s just the physical.

Socially, I don’t like not recognizing other people. (Although I admit on some days it’s sometimes nice not to be recognized by others.)

Logically, I’m bothered that some people actually think they’re protecting themselves when in fact you’re only protecting others, in the extremely unlikely possibility you have COVID-19 and are pre- or un-symptomatic.

With the exception of Hallowe’en and costume parties, does anyone actually like wearing a mask? Even if you are among the tiny minority who don’t mind, how many of us like being TOLD to wear one?

I remember when mandatory seatbelt use came in Ontario back in 1976.1 was only 13 at the time and in a fit of adolescent libertarian rebellion, I vowed not to comply. But I had no choice – if I wanted dad to put the car in drive, I had to buckle up. I got over it pretty quick and now feel naked without one.

Most of us don’t like to be told what to do. Especially by the government. But we are reminded in the first verse of Romans 13: “Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God.”

The most-powerful image of submission to worldly authority is the willingness of our Lord to be arrested, tried, and convicted. When Pilate asked Jesus, “Don’t you know I have the power to release you?” Jesus replied, “You wouldn’t have that power unless it was given to you by God.”

So most of us wear the dam things. I may see mandatory masks as a violation of my liberty, but I go along with it.

For the most part, we do a pretty good job of submission to human authority. It’s relatively easy to follow the laws of the land, because they’re spelled out and pretty clear. It’s a black and white situation.

And then there’s God.

The greatest authority also has a set of statutes and regulations. It’s called The Bible. An added bonus is that this canon of authority includes (at no extra charge) a rich judicial commentary from the lawmakers (our triune God) and arbiter (Jesus). The Holy Spirit, as the enforcer, flows through the Old and the New Testaments and weaves them together. No need for laws to be tested and precedents set, or appeals to high courts. It’s all there.

And yet, we don’t comply.

I’m not talking about the great heathen world outside the confines of our tidy churches and perfect homes. No, I’m looking at our collective mirror.

The church does not follow its own Creator. That may sound illogical. But how else to describe the way many churches have abandoned orthodoxy. Too many of us follow what we like, reinterpret what we don’t like, and ignore what’s unpalatable.

Take John 10:10, “My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” To some, it means that we find joy by acting upon our human desires, which were gifts from God so let’s use them – fully and freely. To others, it means we find joy from a devoted and abiding walk with Christ, who gives us spiritual peace.

So which is it? Can it be both?

While many — in an effort to be accommodating, perhaps — may accept both views as worthy, this dualistic view is idolatrous. In my view, orthodoxy strives to view Scripture through the eyes of Christ and a posture of complete submission to the Father. Our Lord’s ministry on earth is all I need in order to know that true joy is found in the Spirit, not the flesh. Life is not about us – it’s about God. My body does not belong to me – it belongs to God. This is among the central underlying currents which flow from Genesis to Revelation.

We don’t know or accept the authentic interpretation of Scripture because we are not willing to be fully submitted to the author – God. Please read that last sentence again, slowly and carefully.

Too many people in the church are focused more on soothing themselves and tending to the human condition than they are on pleasing the Creator.

Submission to authority means that we turn over our rights and freedoms. This lack of submission is at the root of church decline. This is actually proven. Believers and congregations who are focused on their submission to God’s holy and perfect wisdom and adhere to a traditional interpretation of Scripture, are for the most part, thriving. Just look at the Third World.

On the other hand, believers and congregations which are focused almost exclusively on social justice and give lip service to Bible study, dedicated prayer, seeking the person and work of the Holy Spirit in order to practice the Great Commission to go into the world primarily to make disciples – believers and congregations who do not take those things seriously are for the most part, dying.

Of course, we all know what happens when we point the finger. There are three fingers pointed right back at us. I’m looking right in the mirror when I say these things.

Yes, I have work to do. I know it takes discipline to remain focused on the Lord. It’s not easy. We live in a dark world full of temptation. The Calvinist in me says I am totally depraved. I need the Lord to do what I can’t do.

If we want to break free from the enemy, we need to make dedicated efforts to follow the Lord more closely. It takes faith and discipline. In the same way we are willing to give up our freedoms to all three levels of government – which is not easy; it’s not comfortable.

If we are more willing and able to submit to state authority than to Godly authority, who or what do we really serve?