Romans 14, Causing Others to Stumble and Face Masks

Recently I was sat down by a dear friend who is torn between two worlds. They read all of Romans 14 to me and asked me to reflect about this. I kind of got irritated that I felt like I was basically being told that it’s cool that many of my Christian friends blatantly disregard public health practices whose denial directly contributes to the increased suffering and potential death of some of their “neighbors.”

The opposite perspective of mine is just that if you have enough faith you won’t bother with any public health measures or can just ignore them. I hear it a lot from people who reject pretty much all public health measures.

So anyway I decided to put people who wear face masks and those who don’t into the context of Romans 14 and am not really seeing how that makes sense. Do you think I’m missing something here?

Now receive the one who is weak in the faith, and do not have disputes over differing opinions. One person believes in not wearing face masks, but the weak person always wears face masks. The one who doesn’t wear face masks must not despise the one who does, and the one who does must not judge the one who never wears them, for God has accepted him. Who are you to pass judgment on another’s servant? Before his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. Each must be fully convinced in his own mind…

Do you think that there are principles to apply to a widely divise topic within the church? Is it okay for Christians to just have their own opinion about face masks and be fully convinced in your own mind? Is this topic comparable to eating certain foods or picking a day you want to worship God on? What do you think about applying Romans 14 to this topic or other basic public health measures?

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I think the references with respect to submission to authorities absolutely supersede Romans 14 here! It is not a matter of weakness and lack of faith to brush your teeth, put on your seatbelt, obey speed limits and drive on the right side of the road (as in correct side of the road, for all you drivers in left-side countries :slightly_smiling_face:). We are talking about public health (and the economy) and doing what is good and loving for all. It is not a matter of faith and freedom, but of obedience, humility and love.

Back up a chapter to Romans 13:1-10, and then look at 1 Peter 2:13–20.

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Romans 14 was based on the fact that something being unclean was all in the other person’s head. None of gods represented by idols is real. But the coronavirus is real and it kills people. So the applicability stops right there.

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I think my pastor actually used Romans 14 to tell people they had to wear masks. Basically the biblical principle is the people who consider themselves to be most “free” are the ones called to give up their freedoms out of respect for the people whose consciences or cultural contexts require them to follow regulations.

Obviously, it’s not a perfectly analogous situation, but in some ways wearing masks out of respect for the mask wearers is similar to say, not serving alcohol at a function attended by legal age students at a school that prohibits drinking. Or women covering their heads with a scarf when on a trip in a country where that is considered basic modesty.

I think there are other passages that come into play when your “freedom” potentially harms others, but that might be a conversation for another time. We could say Christians are free to smoke and drink but that doesn’t mean pregnant women should or that you should smoke in the car with your kids or give alcohol to minors or drink and drive. And there are still other principles that come into play when people are asking for the freedom to ignore governmental mandates and safety regulations. Where’s all the Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2 talk then?

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Yes, Romans 14 is definitely in play when talking about consuming alcohol.

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Almost anything can be used , or misused, by Romans 14. Same for the verses on submitting to government authority and appearances of evil.

I had someone use romans 14 as a argument on why trees should not be planted on the churches property because it caused black brothers and sisters to stumble because it was trees used to build slave boats and to hang them from.

That’s why I use Romans 14 for what it is. A letter on how to handle Jewish vs gentile Christian issues.

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This is a classic case of misapplied Scripture. We’re not talking about “disputable matters” here. Opinions about religious questions are one thing, but disputes about facts are another. The fact is that masks prevent the spread of the disease, although not 100%. The fact is that you are not stepping out in faith that you won’t get the disease; you are stepping out in faith that you won’t get the disease and pass it multiple people more vulnerable. That’s called presumption. Jesus rejected that thinking when he refused to leap from the Temple mount and presume upon God’s angels to catch him.

Yes. Some avoid division at any price, but when life and death is at stake, “there must in fact be divisions among you, so that those of you who are approved may be evident.” When the obvious truth of the matter is staring you in the face, why look for another explanation?

Edit: I should clarify that I used “you” to speak to a hypothetical anti-masker, not @pevaquark

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