Previously, I made the statement, “We do not have justification for lockdowns, quarantines, or even mandatory face masks,” based on the CDC’s COVID-19 mortality statistics. Some have reminded me death is not the only factor, and I agree, but we have to weigh the benefits against the costs.
Before all else, we should remember we will always have the poor with us, and the same is true for the sick (Mt 26:10). As we learn from the beginning of the Bible, sin has a death sentence. The wages of sin is death (Ro 6:23). We can’t escape this fate, and we can’t avoid the slow decay of our perishable bodies. Despite our best efforts, we cannot altogether avoid sickness any more than we can stop a flower from growing up through cracks in the cement. Humanity cannot prevent the natural course of things. We will not stop diseases from spreading. If a coronavirus doesn’t get us, something else will.
I make this obvious point because I’ve heard more than a few people speak as though we have a reasonable opportunity here to eradicate a virus that has spread to every corner of the world already. If only we all wear face masks for the next three months— Maybe we’d slow the spread, but is it worth it?
To be clear, I’m not arguing for convenience over personal safety and concern for others. In my opinion, face masks strip us of our humanity more than any virus ever could. To get sick is human. To show the afflicted compassion is divine. To hide our faces from one another— Well, it’s not a world where I want to raise my children. The threat is minimal. The total number of cases may alarm us, but remember that the vast majority of people who contract COVID-19 do not have severe symptoms.
Then again, some people do. What about them? We have compassion for them. We minister to them as we do those with cancer, heart disease, or any other illness. We do not destroy the economy, plunge our nation into catastrophic debt, and inflict our neighbors with financial and psychological devastation because some people may get sick. According to the CDC, most people who suffer the worst consequence of COVID-19 (i.e., death) would have statistically died anyhow. While every death is tragic, again, we cannot avoid it.
Though it’s anecdotal, I’ll share this brief story about a woman I recently met. She came to the funeral home, where I work, to preplan her funeral. When I greeted her, she extended her hand to shake, which I did without hesitation. Immediately, she withdrew, and I thought she was preparing to apologize. I expected her to say, “I’m sorry. We’re not supposed to do that anymore.” Instead, her eyes filled with tears, and she said, “You’re the first human to touch me in months.” At the end of our meeting, I was the first to hug her in months, and I would have done the same even if I knew she had COVID-19.
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:31-46)
I pray for the day when our paranoia ceases, and reason prevails. I want to see my neighbors’ faces and stand closer than six feet to them. If my lack of fear for COVID-19 is reckless, God is my judge, but the Bible doesn’t teach us to fear or even avoid disease, at least not as we’ve done with this one. Scripture encourages us to embrace it as:
- an inevitable consequence of sin;
- an opportunity to show compassion to others;
- and a light momentary affliction preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison (2Co 4:17).