The Invisible Mask
By DANNY MINTON
To wear a mask or not to wear a mask has been one of the biggest controversies during the pandemic. Some say it’s an invasion of their constitutional rights to require them to wear a mask. Others point out that masks will not keep you from getting the virus, while others post concerns about masks restricting oxygen intake. The internet enhances the controversy with doctors on both sides of the issue, giving their views, sometimes even changing their views as the days and weeks go into months.
What about me? Me? I wear a mask when I’m out in public. I realize that the mask will not keep me from getting the virus. So why do I wear it? I wear it, not for myself, but for you. I do know that wearing it lowers the risk of you getting the virus from me should I sneeze, cough, or “spit” while I talk. It won’t stop the germs, but with my mask, trying to keep social distancing and covering the mask when I sneeze, I lessen the risk of giving you the virus if I happen to have it. You see, it’s not about me, it’s about you.
Underneath my physical mask, I have an invisible mask. If you look closely you can see it and the more I wear it the more visible it becomes. Before I leave the house, I make sure to put it on first. I even try to remember to put it on when I’m in situations where I don’t wear the mask you can see. It’s the mask of caring for others.
Many people living in today’s society appear to have forgotten the value of thinking of others over themselves. We become so entangled in our world that we fail to see that others exist around us with needs as well. Jesus told his disciples, “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:12-13 (NASB)
What does it mean to “lay down your life?” It carries with it the daily willingness to put other people’s needs ahead of our wants. 1 John 4:12 tells us that when we practice loving one another as Jesus loved us, God’s love becomes perfected in us. Again, John writes, “But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.” 1 John 3:17-18 (NASB)
We need to ask ourselves if we have the willingness and love for our fellow human beings to do things that put us out, for the sake of others. I recently read an argument that since most people who die from the virus are over 70, there should be no restrictions. The average lifespan is 77 years, so these people were going to die anyway. Others proudly boast, “If I get the virus, I get it,” unconcerned about who they may in turn infect. Looters declaring that what they take repays them for what they lost, paying no mind to how they hurt the store owners. Even our government seems to care more about getting “non-virus” related items passed than helping those who struggle just to put food on the table. They need that invisible mask!
A better world starts with caring for one another. It means putting ourselves in the background. It requires putting on that invisible mask and reaching out.
I’m thankful that our community has put on that mask in many instances. I’m grateful that churches have stepped up to feed children and families. It’s heartwarming to see people share their food, clothing, school supplies, and money with those who struggle through hard times. It’s beautiful to see all the invisible masks worn by people of all ages, skin colors, and beliefs.
Nurses, doctors, police, store clerks, sanitation workers, teachers, nursing home employees, delivery people, and the list goes on; all wear that invisible mask of caring. If we look close enough, we’ll see people all around us wearing one. The more people that wear one, the better place our world will become.
Paul wrote to the church in Philippi, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” Philippians 2:3-4 (NASB)
I once heard the story of a man who had a dream that he visited Heaven and Hell. When he arrived in Hell, he saw everyone sitting at a long dining table covered with all sorts of delicious food. Everyone had one hand tied behind their back and a 3-foot spoon attached to the other. As hard as they tried, they couldn’t get the food into their mouths. They were starving with food in front of them. In the next step of his dream, he visited Heaven. In Heaven, he saw the same scenario: a table filled with food and people with 3-foot spoons. The only difference? In Heaven, they were feeding each other.
I encourage us all to make sure that when we step out of our homes to put on our mask, our invisible mask of caring. Learn to feed each other instead of starving in a self-centered world.
Danny Minton is Pastoral Minister and Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ