Belts and Suspenders Etiquette

This past weekend, I wore my mask into the church building even though the CDC and our denominational leadership agreed that those who have been fully vaccinated no longer need to wear a mask. This is something new for those of us you have only recently returned to in-person worship. I certainly welcome getting rid of my mask, but wanted to be considerate of others who may for one reason or another have yet to receive their shots.

I’ve had a couple of portly pastor friends who would wear suspenders on occasions when they dressed up in a suit to preach their Sunday sermon. I’ve seen some who liked the idea of dramatically punctuating the points, especially their sermonic zingers, with a snap of the suspenders for emphasis! 

I'm told that it's a fashion faux pas to wear both a belt and suspenders! It’s technically not necessary since they have the same purpose... securing trousers to avoid an unexpected wardrobe malfunction! Etiquette says it's one or the other! Yet in these early days of transition to the “mask-less normal,” I can see that many of us who received our vaccinations some weeks ago will continue to wear our masks regardless the relaxing of the rules in some cases. I know... it's somewhat counter-intuitive!

The pastors of our church gave us heads up about the change in mask policy before Sunday. With this announcement, I thought of two things that needed immediate attention with the relaxing of the previous mandate. One thing involved the need to get back to shaving the stubble from my face and the other was the need to buy some chewing gum to be used as a breath freshener! The latter was my attempt at being considerate in another way of those who might move within the social distance space and pick up a hint of halitosis. J

Jesus was about changing things up! He was accused of ignoring the law, but that wasn’t the case. He made it clear that He had come to “fulfill the law.” (Matthew 5:17).  He wanted his followers to rise to a level of righteousness that was authentic and exceeded the legalistic showiness of the religious leaders of the first century. They did their acts of righteousness to be seen by others (Matthew 6:1). This was hypocrisy, a spiritual faux pas of play-acting!

Change requires new structures. Jesus taught through a parable that you cannot put new wine in old wine skins (Matthew 9:14-17). In the parable, He pointed out how fasting was a matter of the heart and the motivations for fasting were between God and the individual believer. The practice of publicizing one's personal piety (giving and praying included) was not the intent of the law. Jesus exposed this pretension as inauthentic and burdensome to the followers of the new way! 

Guidelines and mandates can become burdensome. We have felt the weight of many restrictions during this fifteen-month pandemic. Yet, this season has given us an opportunity to reevaluate our priorities and to reconsider what really matters to us as individuals, family members and citizens. Many are emerging from this time with different perspectives and that is good. 

I think most of us would agree that it is time to put some of these previous regulations behind us. A twenty miles-per-hour speed limit sign would not be as necessary if those of us driving through the school zone behaved as if we had children in the school. This kind of self-regulation reflects that God's supreme law (Love Him! Love others!) has been written on our hearts (Jeremiah 31:33). This should be internalized in its application! 

When we live this way, it enables us to move on with relational grace, kindness, and trust in each other. This is the "constraint" that readily becomes the evidence of true consideration for others!

Mike Keppler, retired pastor,
active churchman and
doting grandparent. 




  1. Wearing a mask, given the relaxed mandates, is as you say - a show of Christian courtesy, much as my returning a cart to the cart corral in a grocery store parking lot. Simple acts of kindness manifest our faith and create good will and more importantly, tangible ways of honoring the Christ we encounter in others seen and unseen.

    1. Beautifully said and illustrated, my good friend!!


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