“Anyone with such a defiling disease must … cover the lower part of their face and cry out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ — Leviticus 13:45
The things fear will make you do.
I remember in the 1980’s, there was a rumor going around my Kansas high school that somebody had contracted AIDS. I was a little scared, shocked really that such an ominous disease was in our midst. I have no idea if the claims were true at all, but I remember how I felt: I felt like protecting myself. No sympathy for who it might be, just a desire to stay away from whoever was infected.
If I could have identified that person, I’m afraid I would have gone all “Leviticus” on them. Making them wear a mask and cry out “Unclean!”
I’ve learned a lot since then. A lot about what can spread AIDS and what can’t. A lot about about rumors and compassion. And a lot about what it means to label a person unclean.
In the Bible, there were lots of ways a person could be labeled unclean. Forgetting to wash their hands, going through menstruation, handling a dead body, a disease like leprosy, and so on. Being unclean meant having to step outside the community until you were deemed clean again.
Today, masks aren’t just for the unclean. There are thousands and thousands around the globe, wearing masks. Not necessarily because they have the coronavirus, but to prevent getting it. Some officials have begun cautiously using the word “pandemic” to describe the likely spread of this virus to the U.S.
Who knows? In a month or so, maybe we’ll all be wearing masks like folks in China, Italy, and Iran have had to do. Not because we are unclean — because we don’t want to be.
The things fear will make you do.
Picture riding the subway on your way to work, looking across at the other riders and seeing just the hairline, eyebrows, and eyes. That’s it. No ski jump noses. No collagened lips. No faces at all, come to think of it. If you worked for a cosmetic company, you might be out of a job.
Can you picture it? The whole world, hiding behind a mask. The folks who are infected, and the folks who don’t want to be. The clean and the unclean. Everybody’s covered up. People say education is the great equalizer. But apparently, a little fabric, some rubber, and a respirator can accomplish that as well.
If it ever does come to that, can I offer a suggestion? Don’t let a mask mask who God made you to be. As expressive and communicative as your face can be, find more ways to bring out your authentic self.
It’s not a bad idea to practice this, surgical mask or not. It’s not about being clean or unclean, afraid or stoic. It’s about being a reflection of the One who created you. No one and no mask can dictate that for you. That’s a lesson it took the Israelites a long time to learn. Actually, we’re learning it still.
If a terrible virus does come to your town, by all means take precaution. And if you know someone who has it, by all means take them some chicken noodle soup (safely, of course!) Remember that, through Jesus Christ, we are all made clean.
But if it ever does comes time to put on that mask and say your prayers, don’t lose sight of humanity all around you. At first, with that obstructed view, you may only be able to see people dimly,
but in God’s time
you’ll see them face to face.
Have a great week,
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