Karlin Bilcher

Broken down to the simplest iteration, to be a Christian is to model your life after the life of Jesus. After all, a literal translation of the word “Christian” is “little Christ.”

In the words of Jesus, the greatest commandment in the entire Bible is to love God and love your neighbor. (Mark 12:31) A deeper dive into this passage from the Bible reveals that they are almost one and the same. To love your neighbor is in effect loving God. Therefore, the decision to wear a mask or not, becomes a moral decision. Mask wearing is about neighborliness and neighborliness is connected to godliness.

I certainly don’t want to shame anyone or further divide, but if you identify as a Christian, wearing a mask ought to be low hanging fruit. As Christians, we ought to be out in front, leading the charge when it comes to being vaccinated and wearing a mask. It’s the least we can do on behalf of our neighbors.

Living as “little Christs,” Christians are likewise called to an others-centric life. Christian’s ought to be well versed, proficient and skilled at giving of themselves in all kinds of ways. Giving away our money, giving away our time, serving others in all kinds of imaginative and creative ways.

That is who we are, that’s just how we roll, that is the lifestyle we’ve learned and inherited from our Lord Jesus. To the degree that covering our noses and our mouths when indoors, in public, is really not a big ask. Self-sacrifice on behalf of the suffering, the underprivileged, the weakest among us is the central premise of the life of Christ.

In addition to Jesus, Johnny Cash is also one of my heroes. Have you heard his song, “Man in Black”? Cash says he wears the black, “for the sick and lonely old.” Early in his career, Cash made the choice to wear all black as a deliberate act of solidarity with the suffering. Cash might sing today, “I wear the mask for the asthmatic, for the diabetic and the immunocompromised.”

Therefore, wearing a mask isn’t even comparable to all the other way more difficult things God mandates Christians to exemplify in our lives like loving our enemies, praying for those who persecute us, forgiving without limit and unconditional love.

COVID-19 is far from the first pandemic the world has endured. A shallow dive into church history reveals that throughout history Christians have been found on the frontlines caring for their sick neighbors. At the height of the Plague of Cyprian 260 AD, Dionysius, a government official in the city of Athens, wrote of what he witnessed.

“Most of the Christians showed unbounded love and loyalty, never sparing themselves and thinking only of one another,” Dionysius wrote. “Heedless of danger, they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need and ministering to them in the name of Christ…the result of their great piety and strong faith in God, seems in every way the equal of martyrdom…” (Rodney Stark, The Rise Of Christianity pg. 82)

The question before all of us is this; “Where do we position ourselves in relation to the weakest, most vulnerable members of our community?” I know a middle school student with type 2 diabetes. I know a young mom with kids in the Driggs Schools, who is the primary caregiver to her mother suffering from cancer. I have Hispanic friends who go to work every day without health insurance and the benefit of paid time off, if they get sick and can’t go to work, they risk eviction.

“The moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped,” U.S. Vice President Hubert Humphrey said in 1977. I don’t look to my government to tell me what’s right. When they get it right, I celebrate. When they get it wrong, I gently stand in opposition. Either way, for the time being, those of us who represent Christ in Teton Valley ought to be masked on behalf of the “least of these among us.” (Matthew 25: 40)

Karlin Bilcher

Pastor of Church in the Tetons