Mailbag, Marriage

The Mailbag: Masks in church- Do I submit to my husband or my pastor?


Help! I feel torn between two biblical commands, and I don’t know what to do. Our church has started meeting together in person again. The leadership has strongly requested that everyone wear masks. E-mails have been sent out about it, there are signs all over the church requesting that people wear masks, etc., and though it has been mentioned a few times that they will not ask anyone to leave if he/she isn’t wearing a mask, it’s pretty obvious the powers that be want everybody wearing masks.

My husband is very anti-mask. Although he is OK with wearing them where required by law, it’s not legally required in churches where we live, and he doesn’t want me to wear a mask in church. He has explained his reasons to me for his position. I think they are wise, valid reasons, and I actually agree with him. In addition to his reasons, I struggle against anxiety attacks and claustrophobia, which masks make worse, and mentally fending off these attacks makes it extremely difficult for me to focus on anything else, like worship or the sermon.

I believe the Bible is clear that I’m to submit to my husband. However, the Bible is also clear that we’re to submit to our pastors/leaders. And what about dying to self and putting the wants/needs of others (such as my fellow church members who are fearful of catching COVID) first? I’m so confused. What should I do?

This is a really great question. It’s so encouraging to me that you want to do the godly thing in this situation.

But before I begin answering your excellent question, unfortunately, in the zeitgeist we live in that’s even affecting Christians, I’ve got to fence this discussion for all of my readers with two parameters:

1. There will be no pro-/anti- mask arguing in the comments section of this article nor on any of my social media platforms, nor will I read or answer any e-mails/private messages arguing your position on masks. Any such e-mails, messages, or comments will be deleted. The way I’ve seen many professing Christians – on both sides of the issue, mind you – comporting themselves online about masks, is, frankly, appalling, and I refuse to lend my platforms to that kind of behavior.

2. This article will deal with the biblical topic of submission in marriage. Every time I address this issue somebody brings up the “But what about abuse?” argument as if the sin and exception of abuse negates the biblical rule of submission. (Very much like when the topic of abortion comes up and people automatically bring out the “But what about rape/incest?” argument.) It doesn’t. Abuse is a sin and a separate issue from submission that must be dealt with in a biblical way. Abuse has nothing to do with biblical submission even though some abusers evilly (and abusively) try to connect the two. At any rate, abuse is not today’s topic. Today’s topic is about a woman in a healthy Christian marriage who wants to obey our Lord’s command to all Christian wives in non-abusive marriages that we are to submit to our husbands. If you’d like me to address the topic of abuse in a future edition of The Mailbag, please send in your question. And if you’re being abused, get somewhere safe immediately, and reach out to your pastor, church, or a good Christian friend for help.


Any Christian who studies her Bible has, no doubt, surmised that submission to authority – to God, to our husbands, to our pastors, to our governmental officials, to our employers, and children to their parents – is a big deal to God because He discusses it and instructs us on it so often in Scripture. But how do we juggle our obedience to all of those authorities, especially when obedience to one might conflict with obedience to another?

Well, the first thing we have to recognize is that there’s a hierarchy of authority in our lives. The authorities in our lives are not all on an equal plane. Some of them outrank others.

God outranks everybody. We obey Him regardless of what any mere human might say about it, and regardless of what it might cost us. Peter may have stuck his foot in his mouth a lot, but he hit it right on the nose when he told his “pastor” (the high priest), who was ordering the apostles to disobey God’s command: “We must obey God rather than men.

But what about your dilemma? You want to obey God by obeying both His command to submit to your husband and His command to submit to your pastoral leadership. Neither your husband nor your pastor is asking you to disobey God. But submitting to one would mean not submitting to the other. It’s a Catch-22, right?

Not really, because for a married woman, her husband outranks her pastor in the chain of command of authority in her life. I think we probably all get this, intuitively, but, if it helps, consider the following:

• God established the family long before He established the church. It was the very first structure of authority He set up as a unit, and is the foundation of human society and relationships.

• The assemblage of God’s people – both Old Testament (Israel) and New (the church) – is contingent upon the family in several regards: God is our Father – we are His children, Christ is the bridegroom – the church is the bride, the twelve tribes of Israel were literal family lines and their elders were heads of clans and families, only men from certain family lines could serve as priests and Levites, a pastor must be the husband of one wife and rule his home and children well or he is disqualified from the pastorate, wives are to consult their husbands at home rather than disrupt a worship service with questions, and so on. The family isn’t contingent on the church the way the church is contingent on the family.

• The bond and vow of marriage outranks your less binding relationship to your pastor and church. When you married your husband, you made a vow before God and man to be loyally and faithfully bound to him for the rest of your (or his) natural life. When you consummated your marriage, you entered into a one flesh union with your husband. That’s a much more profound commitment to your husband than the commitment you have to your pastor and church.This is why the act of pursuing a divorce is nearly always a sin, while, comparatively, the act of leaving a particular local church (though you might have sinful reasons for doing so) is not.

• And as far as loving your neighbor or putting others’ wants and needs ahead of your own – your husband is your nearest neighbor. What about loving him? What about dying to self for him? It is far more important, both because of the depth of your commitment to him, and for practical reasons of familial peace under your own roof, that his wants and needs outweigh the wants and needs of Miss Tilly in the third pew.

So, what does this mean for your mask situation? It means you need to submit to your husband. Certainly, a godly husband would be willing to talk with you about his reasons for his decision and discuss your convictions about submitting to your church’s leadership. Perhaps your husband would think it’s a good idea for him (or both of you) to discuss the matter with your pastor. One godly husband might then decide to let you decide for yourself what to do regarding masking at church. Another godly husband might, after prayerfully receiving your input, still decide it is wisest for his family not to wear masks. You respectfully give your input and then back off, praying for him as he makes the decision he believes will most honor God and for which he will have to answer to God. And when he makes that decision, you graciously abide by it.

And my guess would be that if you have a godly, doctrinally sound pastor, he would tell you basically the same thing. I can’t imagine a good pastor telling a wife who’s seeking to obey Scripture that she needs to submit to him over submitting to her husband.

If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.


The Mailbag: Is it Time to Go Back to Church after COVID Quarantine?


I desire to return to church and miss fellowshipping with other believers in person, but with the recent increase of virus cases in my area, I’m anxious about assembling even when wearing a mask and social distancing. The church I attend is currently offering services online and recently reopened. While they highly recommend wearing a mask during service, they will not force attendees to wear one. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks.


This is a great question as churches begin re-opening for on campus worship again. But, unfortunately, it’s not a question I can give a simplistic “go” or “don’t go” answer to. Everybody’s situation is different, everybody’s church is different, everybody’s health risks are different. This is a decision you will need to make prayerfully with your family, using biblical wisdom. If you’re not quite sure how to get started on that, I would suggest kicking things off by reading my article on making godly decisions: Basic Training: 8 Steps to Finding God’s Will for Your Life.

Here are some things to take into consideration as you make your decision:

What’s your potential risk? Contact your doctor to find out his opinion on whether or not attending church under these circumstances would genuinely put your health at risk. If you have a husband, children, or others who live in your home, find out from their doctors whether or not they are at risk either by attending themselves or by being around you if you attend without them. I want to stress contacting your doctor. Don’t try to figure it out yourself by reading things on the internet or chatting with friends. There is so much conflicting information, rumors, and unwise conventional wisdom running rampant out there that it’s impossible to sort it all out. Your doctor knows your body and your health history. Ask him.

What does your husband say? If you’re married, you and your husband should talk through and pray through this issue. Remember, you have a biblical obligation to submit to your husband’s final decision.

The fear factor: You’ll need to biblically evaluate the fearfulness of your heart about contracting the disease. Is it a mild, sensible concern that you harness for the glory of God to help you act wisely, or is it an all-consuming panic that prevents you from trusting God in order to do the things He has commanded you to do? If you lean toward the latter, you may have crossed the line into sinful fear, worry, and refusing to trust God. Understand that here we are setting aside for a moment the action of going/not going to church, and instead focusing on examining the motivation of your heart. Here are some passages of Scripture to meditate on and apply:

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. Matthew 6:25-34
For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 2 Timothy 1:6-7
You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off”; fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:9b-10
The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? Psalm 118:6
He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord. Psalm 112:7

Think back over the entirety of the Bible. Can you think of any instance in which God commends someone for being fearful instead of trusting Him?

Slouching toward laziness: I bring up laziness because this is a pull of the flesh that I’ve been feeling lately, so I figure at least a few others might be feeling it too. I am not a morning person. I am about as far from a morning person as you can get. And every Sunday of my life for the past 51 years, I’ve been dragging myself out of bed early on Sunday mornings to get ready for church, get the kids ready for church, get to the church, and behave in a godly manner once I get there. Of course, once I get there, I’m always glad to be in the Lord’s house worshiping with my brothers and sisters, but the part between waking up and being there? Not fun. So I’ll be honest, for the past several weeks I’ve enjoyed getting to sleep late on Sundays and ease into the day instead of being slammed with all of the getting ready to go hassle at the crack of dawn every Lord’s Day. And even though my family will be going back to church soon, I still feel that “I don’t wanna” pull of my flesh.

Is it possible there’s a little dash of laziness in the mix (for you or maybe another reader) when it comes to going back to church? I know that’s an issue for me, but I can’t answer that for you. You will need to prayerfully evaluate your heart against Scripture as you think all of this through. Here are a few verses to consider:

A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man. Proverbs 6:10-11 and 24:33-34 (This verse is talking about the literal poverty that comes from being lazy instead of working, but, in principle, it can also apply to the spiritual poverty and want that will result from sleeping in and skipping church.)
The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied. Proverbs 13:4
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Ephesians 5:15-17
So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. James 4:17

Are you forsaking the assembly? Throughout the entirety of the Bible, God’s people are a people who assemble together. It’s assumed. A given. There’s no such animal as Christians who don’t physically assemble, face to face, real time, together. But just in case we miss that assumption, God graciously tells us flat out:

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25

Now, as I’ve mentioned before, that verse doesn’t mean we have to be at the church every time the doors are open for every meeting, class, fellowship, or activity in order to be obedient to God’s command to be faithful to the church. Nor does it mean we can treat church attendance as optional, going only when we feel like it, or when there’s nothing “more important” scheduled in that time slot. Nor does it mean that watching an online service equals physically showing up and participating in worship, teaching, service, prayer, the ordinances, etc. (That’s not going to church. That’s watching other people go to church.) It means we’re to be faithful to our church attendance unless Providentially hindered.

Are you truly Providentially hindered from attending church? I don’t know. That’s something you’re going to have to get into your prayer closet and be brutally honest with yourself and with God about. Are you wisely staying home from church temporarily because your doctor says you’re at high risk for contracting the virus under your church’s protocols, or are you actually forsaking the assembly and making excuses because you’re unbiblically fearful or lazy or disobedient? That is something each of us will have to discern in our own hearts and give an account to God for.

Follow the leader: Our culture indoctrinates us into rugged individualism and independence so much that we often don’t even realize it when we make decisions and adopt stances without even taking our pastors’ and elders’ leadership into consideration. I know I’ve been guilty of that many times. But here’s what the Bible says:

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.
Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things. I urge you the more earnestly to do this in order that I may be restored to you the sooner. Hebrews 13:17-19

Unless our pastors/elders are leading us contrary to Scripture, or we are somehow Providentially hindered from following their guidance, Scripture says we’re to graciously follow their leadership. If your pastor/elders have determined, after weighing spiritual and health concerns, that it’s most in line with Scripture to start meeting again with the protocols you’ve described, at least let their shepherding play a significant role in your decision-making process. That’s not nothing. It’s part of the way the Holy Spirit leads us. Let’s not call out to Him for wisdom and guidance and then ignore or oppose one of His methods for doing just that.

If you need some help understanding or accepting the decisions your pastor has made, call him, set up an appointment with him, or video chat with him, and listen to what he has to say – not with the goal of arguing your position against his, but with the goal of understanding and doing whatever you can to follow his leadership.

And just as the author of Hebrews urged the church – pray for your pastor and elders. They’re doing their best, in good conscience, to lead you in a godly, biblical, honorable way, and we all want to be restored to meeting together again as soon as that becomes possible.

Trust God’s sovereignty and care. Is God powerful enough to keep you from getting the virus? Might He allow you to contract the virus in order to glorify Himself and grow you spiritually in the process? If so, does He have the power to heal you? If you contract the virus and die from it, is that because God couldn’t stop you from dying?

We desperately need to remember that God is in complete control of every atom of this universe. If it is not within His will for you to contract the virus, you won’t. If it is within His will for you to contract the virus, all the masks, social distancing, handwashing, and quarantines in the world won’t prevent you from catching it. Does that mean we throw caution to the wind, asking infected people to sneeze on us, or jumping off buildings, or walking in front of speeding trains, or handling snakes? Of course not, because acting like an idiot doesn’t glorify God, and putting Him to the test is a sin.

What it means is that we strive to walk wisely and obediently to Him, trusting Him all along the way with the outcome. Getting the Coronavirus, even dying from the Coronavirus isn’t the worst thing that could happen to a Christian. The worst thing that can transpire in the life of a Christian is sin. Failure to trust God. Giving something lesser than God the authority and control over your life.

Do we really trust that God is in control? And if we don’t, why would we trouble ourselves about going to church and worshiping a god so impotent that he can’t protect us from getting the virus, or heal us from the virus, or take us home to Heaven if we die of the virus?

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. Matthew 10:29-31
Is my hand shortened, that it cannot redeem? Or have I no power to deliver? Isaiah 50:2b
The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you. Psalm 9:9-10
Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. Psalm 37:5
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones. Proverbs 3:5-8

Additional Resources:

“If You Skip Church on Christmas You’re Probably Not Even Saved” and Other Holiday Nonsense

Basic Training: 7 Reasons Church is Not Optional and Non-Negotiable for Christians

M-m-m-my Corona(virus) in the 3/20/20 edition of Random Ramblings, Ruminations, and Resources

Church was never meant to be remote: Reuniting after COVID-19 at A Word Fitly Spoken

Glad You Asked! Sarah lied?, COVID-19 & church, and more! at A Word Fitly Spoken (~11:25)

If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.