Dr. Anthony Fauci, the octogenarian immunologist who serves as the director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the chief medical advisor to the president, now says that even after receiving both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, you should continue to wear a mask and practice social distancing.
However, Fauci also has said, according to Axios, the CDC believes three feet of physical separation is now okay, instead of the six-foot social distancing we've had to observe for the past 12 months, since "we don't yet know if the vaccine will stop you from spreading the virus to others."
Just in case you were tempted to think Fauci and the CDC were growing reasonable, Reason magazine alerts us that "The nation's top health officials think daycare providers should continue requiring children as young as two years old to wear masks at all times—except while eating and napping—and that will remain the case even after all teachers and staff are vaccinated."
We have devolved to where some of these experts advised the wearing of two masks. They had no "science" behind this, but only that "it makes common sense that if one mask is good, two masks would be better." I should not have been surprised when one business actually handed me a surgical-style mask and asked that I wear it under my regular mask. (Breathing was optional?)
The Message of Masks
At the start of this worldwide pandemic most masks were modeled after the medical surgical masks. Some, like Nancy Pelosi's, became colorful, complementing fashion statements. Others carried humorous or inspiring messages, while others, unfortunately, featured vile comments or images from the "dark side."
Our church gave out some masks, which said "This mask is hiding my smile!" It was a warm reminder of how important facial expressions are in communication. When everyone is wearing a mask, we miss out on so much in sharing with others.
We are all made in the image of God. Wearing a mask hides the vitality of the vibrant Holy Spirit living within believers and must be countered with the positive attitudes and encouraging words we must try to express, especially in these depressing times.
The Witness of Masks
In 1 Corinthians 8 and 9, the apostle Paul shares some godly principles of Christian ethics which can be used in relating to others in critical times like this COVID-19 epidemic. He begins in Chapter 8, verses 1-12, talking about being sensitive to the conscience and convictions of others.
In that Corinthian context, the issue related to the pagan practice of sacrificing food to idols. Some believers could ignore that issue and buy sacrificed meat at the market—perhaps at discount. Other believers remembered their former lives when they had been the ones doing the sacrificing and they could not, in good conscience, buy and eat the meat.
One group was convinced God would allow them to buy and eat the meat, while the other group did not want to even associate with anything that reminded them of their old pagan lifestyle. Paul cautioned the first group to be considerate of the consciences of the other group, "lest by any means this liberty of yours becomes a stumbling block to those who are weak" (1 Cor. 8:9b). Pride, arrogance or manipulation is not appropriate among believers. We should review these spiritual considerations in verses 9-13 and find principles we might apply to others in this pandemic and post vaccine world.
Post Vaccine Principles
So, the first principle to learn and apply to our post-vaccine world is to demonstrate self-denial by respecting and loving others, who are likewise made in the image of our Creator-God. We can honor God by respecting the well-being of His created ones.
I've heard some say that, since the vaccines are only supposed to be 95% effective, millions of people who may receive the shots are still unsafe and could still spread the disease by human-to-human transmission via respiratory droplets. Therefore, these cautious and concerned people may still want to wear masks (and wish you and I would too) even after maximum vaccine-inoculations.
The hoped-for "herd immunity" is only historically gained over contagious diseases—smallpox, polio, diphtheria or rubella—after enough people either survive the infection (and gain immunity) or are immune after the vaccinations. The three vaccines currently approved in the USA were developed under former President Trump's "Warp Speed" policies and in record times. They were only approved for use on an emergency status, since they were never tested for unexpected consequences on a large group of people over a long period of time. Thus, the continued cautious concern among many.
A second post-vaccine principle we can learn from the apostle Paul is that personal convictions on ethical matters must be personally developed. To have lasting value, they cannot be borrowed from someone else nor force-fed by someone else. They must become the daily standards by which life is lived with integrity and honesty before God and love for our brothers and sisters. Fuzzy consciences become clear by consistently applying biblical principles. Make sure the convictions you develop are based on the Word of God and not just an effort to rationalize your selfish desires.
The debates over individual freedoms, federal laws or executive actions can cause divisions, even among friends and family. Usually, divisions occur when we try to impose our views upon others. To this issue, Paul says, "pursue the things which produce peace and the things that build up one another" and "the faith that you have, have as your own conviction before God" (see Rom. 14:16-22).
Will you or I continue to wear a mask after being vaccinated? Or will you or I even submit to unproven vaccinations in the first place?
It all depends on the convictions we develop, based on our love for God, our brothers and sisters, and the masses of people around us who still need to find eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Gary Curtis served in full-time ministry for 50 years, the last 27 years of which he was part of the pastoral staff of The Church on The Way, the Van Nuys' California Foursquare church. Now retired, Gary continues to write a weekly blog at worshipontheway.wordpress.com and frequent articles for digital and print platforms.
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