Maybe you read yesterday's post and you're thinking to yourself, okay, maybe this pastor didn't want to actually talk about Jesus, but at the very least, he's not wrong about Jesus. Everything he implied about Jesus is true.
And maybe it is. Maybe you have a point there.
But the truth is that this article could have been written from someone with a different view on the masking issue who could have also said true things about Jesus. So the question becomes - what do you do then?
Someone could have written this article to say, would Jesus wear a mask? Would Jesus do what the authorities told Him to do, without questioning it? Would Jesus do something that decades of research into creating meaningful, effective masks have already shown doesn't work, just to make someone else more comfortable? Would Jesus let the world decide how He responds to the world's problems?
Or would Jesus stand up for truth, even when it's uncomfortable? Would Jesus push back against authorities whose motives may or may not be pure? Would Jesus live a better way in light of what is being pitched to Him as a good way?
And all of a sudden, we have some very true things about Jesus - that He stands for truth and that He is not controlled by worldly authorities. These things are just as true about Jesus as saying that He cares for other persons and that He isn't troubled by the inconveniences of being a human in community.
So...which is it? Would Jesus wear a mask?
This is exactly what makes this kind of rhetoric so dangerous, not only to us as human beings trying to figure out how to live together, but for us as Christian human beings trying to figure out how best to represent Jesus in our world. When we just use the name of Jesus, without really wanting to talk holistically about Him, we are able to prooftext nearly anything we want and claim that it is holy.
Even if it is anything but.
We have to be clear and say that there is nothing in the Scripture that tells us whether Jesus would have worn a mask or not. There is evidence to say that He would have, and there is evidence to say that He wouldn't have. There are very real characteristics of God that we could use to validate our position on either side of this debate.
The trouble comes when we use only the name of Jesus and the parts of Him that happen to agree with us in order to make a point not for Jesus, but against those who disagree with us. And that's what is happening in this article. This pastor doesn't want to talk about Jesus; he wants to condemn those who don't agree with him by using the name of Jesus as a burden of shame.
Do you think that Jesus would ever use His name to shame someone? Do you think that's how He wants us to do it?
(Sadly, I know that some of you are probably nodding your heads right now, saying, yeah, if that's what it takes. But let's be clear - our God is not a God of shame. He covers shame with tender mercy; He doesn't weaponize it.)
Some of this, we can handle just by being discerning readers/listeners. We have to be aware of times when someone - Christian or not - is using the name of Jesus this way. We have to understand that just because someone uses the name of Jesus, that doesn't mean that person is really talking about Him.
What's harder is when we must be mindful as speakers of Christ. What's harder is when we have to catch ourselves in moments when we are prone to do this same thing - to invoke the name of Jesus when we're not talking about Him; we're talking about our neighbors and trying to shame them.
For now, let's keep talking about this - there's a lot more to unpack in this conversation.