Andrew Schroer writes a faith column for the Victoria Advocate.

Last week, Gov. Greg Abbott lifted the mask mandate for Texas. Many Texans let out a sigh of relief. Many others are now holding their collective breath.

The mandating of masks and social distancing during the pandemic has been polemical throughout our country and especially here in Texas. Some see such measures as doing little good and robbing them of their civil liberties. Others see them as a necessary and wise course to stem the spread of the virus and save lives.

One of the arguments against the use of masks, in particular, is their effectiveness. Though the overwhelming majority of the medical and scientific communities say that masks do help inhibit the spread of the virus, many wonder how much it really helps. “I wore a mask and still got COVID-19. So what good does it do?” is something I’ve seen people post on social media.

The truth is that you can wear a mask, wash your hands, keep proper social distancing — even be vaccinated — and still get sick. Not one of the preventive measures is 100% effective.

“That’s why I am not doing it,” some say.

Allow me to humbly give a counterargument. Yes, none of the measures are 100% effective at preventing COVID-19 (though, honestly the vaccines do come close). But they do help. They improve the odds that a person will not contract the disease. They slow the spread.

Though they aren’t foolproof, masks do help.

The tough question is how to balance the benefits of these preventive measures with their negative effects on people’s lives, liberties and even finances. That is a question that intelligent and caring people can honestly debate.

The reason I bring up this issue is not to stoke the flames of the debate, but rather because there is a striking parallel in our spiritual lives.

As I’ve mentioned before, we were in a pandemic long before COVID-19 reared its ugly head. The virus of sin has long infected us and our world.

That’s why, at different times in history, Christians have tried to avoid sin by social distancing. For centuries, monasticism (that is, becoming a monk or nun and living away from the world) had a large appeal to Christians, especially during the Middle Ages. By separating from society and the temptations of the world, they felt they could live holier lives.

History has taught us that, like social distancing during a pandemic, such measures are not 100% effective. A close look at life in monasteries during the Middle Ages reveals that drunkenness, sodomy and pregnant nuns were not uncommon. You can’t completely avoid the pandemic of sin by simply social distancing. We are born infected with the virus of sin. Wherever you go, you will find temptations in and around you.

Trying to avoid temptation completely is impossible, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

Preventive measures do help. Just because we can’t avoid temptation entirely doesn’t mean we should stand right next to it and let it breathe in our faces.

As Christians, we can and should avoid places that present a temptation to us. We can and should filter what we and our families see on our screens. We can and should avoid people we know will have a negative influence on us and our faith. Though not 100% effective, preventive measures do help.

But we can’t escape the virus of sin completely. Running away from the world won’t make us immune. That’s why we need the help God gives us in his word.

Strengthen the immune system of your faith. Go to church. Read your Bibles. Find in God’s forgiveness the medicine you need for your hurting soul. Find in his promises the help you need as you fight against the virus of sin.

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Pastor Andrew Schroer has been a pastor for nearly 20 years and is currently serving at Redeemer Lutheran Church with campuses in Edna and Victoria. Read more of his devotional writing and contact him at 364DaysofThanksgiving.com.

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