For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints, and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account (Hebrews 4:12-13 NIV).
One of the many lifestyle changes brought by the COVID-19 pandemic is the wearing of face masks. The President of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, in his periodic address to the nation always encourages citizens to put on face masks while stepping out. Some citizens in the major cities have been subsequently arrested for flouting the presidential directive. Many discussions are going on in the Christian circles about the wearing of masks to church. Some people have ridiculed ministers who put on masks to church, citing a lack of faith in the protective powers of God. While some members of the clergy and Christians are seen wearing multiple face masks, others do not wear any mask at all, especially when they are in their churches. Other Christians have advocated for churches to not make the use of masks compulsory since wearing them makes them uncomfortable in the worship environment. Chorus leaders, instrumentalists, and preachers alike are seen pulling down their masks to the chin so they can have some breathing space to undertake their respective activities. Most people cannot wait for the coronavirus pandemic to be finally declared to be over so that they can go back to their normal activities, without the wearing of face masks.
With many countries now embarking on mass vaccinations, one of the top questions on the minds of all is whether one can stop wearing a mask after vaccination. The U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in a briefing earlier in March indicated that fully vaccinated people could visit other fully vaccinated people in private settings, indoors, without masks or socially distancing. This is good news for a lot of people.
Mask wearing to church is however not a new phenomenon. As American Evangelist Paul David Washer puts it, “Some of you are mad about wearing a mask to church, but you have been doing it for years” Many come to church in fine and smart appearances, sing, clap, and dance to the name of the Lord, but that is where the worship ends. Worship for them only happens on Sundays in the church auditorium, outside the church is a different life altogether. In order to hide their public lifestyle from the church leadership and fellow worshippers, they put on deceptive appearances, covering who they really are on the inside, only to show the real self in their homes, at work, school, markets, on public transport or returning from church service. A. W. Tozer rightly states it with these words, “If you do not worship God seven days a week, you do not worship Him on one day a week. There is no such thing known in heaven as Sunday worship unless it is accompanied by Monday worship and Tuesday worship and so on.” Masking of the real self is one of the banes of Christianity and it has become so prominent that, the link between church and society is almost broken. The same people who raise their hands to sing about how holy God is are the ones engaged in unholy acts in their places of work and schools. The Christian is thus a Christian only while in a church service but is mixed with the world outside the church. The masks of Christianity are won only on Sundays to church but removed on all other days, and the real faces are shown in the society. The very fact that we mask ourselves whiles in the church shows we know the right thing to do but feel it can be done only in the church. Hidden under the masks are works of the flesh such as sexual immorality, impurity, debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like (Galatians 5:19-21). But as the Galatian church are warned, those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Apostle Paul always emphasizes that a spiritual conversion to Christianity should bring an outward manifestation of an inward change – a transformation that should be evident to all, beyond the church walls. As Charles Spurgeon observes, “people bear the Christian name but act like worldlings and love the amusements and follies of the world. It is time for a division in the house of the Lord in which those for Christ go into one camp and those against Christ go into the other camp. We have been mixed too long.” We need to go to the world and show them our identity in Christ. There should be a clear distinction between the Christian and one who is in the world. This difference can be seen when believers unmask themselves before God, so their weaknesses are dealt with once and for all. God expects us to come to Him boldly and open ourselves to Him, to show him our weaknesses and shortcomings. In so doing, he takes over our weaknesses and works on them. David prayed to God to “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24, NIV). He thus removed his mask before God. It is a heart yielded to the Lord that God uses. Still keeping the masks on means we are not ready to let go of the pleasures we enjoy in the world, and so are not willing to change. The Christian should however remember that nothing is hidden in the sight of God and when God decides to unmask us, we might suffer great loss. In the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18:9-14), the Pharisee went to the Lord with a masked face, justifying himself. The tax collector however removed his mask and in humility requested God to have mercy on him. That is the type of worship Jesus recommends for all believers. As a good friend of mine will say, “let us fellowship without masks”. When believers remove their masks, the Ghanaian society can feel the effect of the 72% Christian population.
Apostle Ekow Badu Wood, the Area Head of Kasoa Area of The Church of Pentecost, rightly stated at the 2021 Greater Accra Ministers and Wives’ Conference of the church that, “The agent of transformation is conscious of his ministry from Monday through Saturday. He considers his life as a calling from God to engage and transform the world. The call to be an agent of transformation is a call to stop letting our Christianity start and end on Sunday. Instead, the fellowship on Sunday is to prepare the agent to use their occupation, vocation, and life as an instrument throughout the week – from Monday through Sunday to transform their world.” Since we are tired of wearing the physical masks to church, let us be tired of the spiritual masks as well. The Christian is thus admonished to take off his or her mask and present his real self to God for Him to work on his heart, so he can go back to the society and influence his sphere with the values and principles of the kingdom of God.
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