When I first heard that we were going to have to wear face masks in public, I let out an audible groan.

I hated face masks. After all, masks fog up my glasses every time I talk. (Insert joke about professor blowing hot air here.) My brain went into hyperactive mode, creating excuse after excuse for why I shouldn’t wear a mask: “It doesn’t do me any good; I’m healthy enough; it makes my face so hot; I’m still pretty young; I don’t have health complications; I’m not afraid of death; I don’t like how others look in them.” I had lots of reasons for not wanting to wear a mask, but none of them were any good.

Here’s what I figured out: all of my excuses were about me. With COVID-19, however, I don’t need to wear a face mask for myself. The pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic spread of this virus means that I need to wear a mask for others. Many people on our campus and in the world are immuno-compromised or have health complications that make this virus more dangerous. They are students, professors, and staff members in our midst. They are also our neighbors and our friends. For these people—and for the people who get deathly sick who aren’t in any obvious demographic danger—I need to wear a mask. I am not trying to protect myself with a face mask; I am trying to protect others.

As a theology professor, I can’t help but point out how close this is to what the Christian life is all about. By his life, death, and resurrection, Jesus won forgiveness and salvation for the world. No one can earn or gain this salvation by good works. Instead, we must give up working, and trust in Jesus for salvation. Freed from working for ourselves and our own salvation, Jesus frees us to serve our neighbors. This is what wearing a face mask is about too: serving our neighbors. We wear face masks not to protect ourselves, but to protect others. Hence, I’m smiling these days when I put on my mask. My glasses still fog, and my face still gets hot, but wearing my mask is an opportunity to protect the health of others and make them feel safe and comfortable. That’s something to smile about.

Ted Hopkins—This article is written by Rev. Theodore Hopkins, PhD, Concordia University Ann Arbor’s pre-seminary director and co-editor of CTJ, the theological journal of the Concordia University System

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