Wearing Masks in Thailand
Most all of us have been wearing masks for over a year and have heard lots of discussion on the relative benefits of mask-wearing as well as the differences in cloth, paper, N-95 and surgical masks. My Thai church even gave me a special mask at Christmas which had a small fan attached. Just think of the number of masks you’ve worn and discarded over the past year and multiply that by billions of others – what a massive amount of garbage (one study said that 3.4 billion face masks are discarded every day)! Governments vary on simply recommending face masks or mandating them (The Thai government has just instituted a $640USD fine for noncompliance). Some people choose not to wear masks even in areas of high Covid concentration. The reasons I have heard are:
- It is inconvenient and uncomfortable to wear and hampers communication
- They are not convinced that it significantly reduces the spread of Covid
- Unlike most all Asians that I am around, they have never worn one before and say that it makes them feel and look foolish (Note: way before Covid the Thai people, if they felt like they would be a health risk to others by coughing etc., would almost always put on a mask)
- They cherish their freedoms and by not wearing a mask, they can affirm that freedom and often feel that the government is overstepping its authority.
All this discussion has made me step back and evaluate why I’ve decided to wear a mask:
- We are to love our neighbour and have a special concern for those who are vulnerable around us like the poor, the elderly and infirm (i.e. Those who are most at risk for Covid) – Luke 6:31; Gal 2:10. Loving people is often inconvenient, uncomfortable and can end up making one look foolish at times. Masks do not necessarily protect the wearer as much as it protects those around us: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others” (Phil. 2:3-4).
- We are to become “all things to all people so that by all means we might win some” (1 Cor. 9:2, 19-23). At times we need to curtail our freedom for the sake of the gospel (Phil 2:6-7 … Jesus gave up his rights to sacrifice for others). A believer trying to evangelize nonbelievers who are wearing masks can erect an unnecessary barrier. They may think, “That person doesn’t care if I get sick”.
- Christians are to obey the government when it does not go expressly against the Bible (Rom. 13:1).
- A mask is easily attainable and worn and does not hamper daily life (although there are activities like sports where it does hamper breathing).
- Finally, in Lev. 13:45-46 a leper was to stand apart from others and cover his mouth and warn others by saying “Unclean, unclean”. In other words, Moses was concerned about the spread of disease and had them take precautions so that it wouldn’t spread among his people
An interesting debate I’ve seen is over whether Jesus would wear a mask or not during Covid. Personally, I don’t believe Jesus would get into debates about masks. Jesus always went out of His way to show that everyone mattered deeply to Him. In my mind, I see Him wearing a mask as He talks to others and lovingly draws attention to what really matters – a relationship with Him.