Parapets, Masks, and Preserving Human Life
I recently was teaching through the 10 Commandments using the Westminster Catechisms, and discovered something interesting in relation to the 6th commandment (“You shall not murder”). This commandment requires us to endeavor to preserve the lives of other people (WLC 155, WSC 68). What I found intriguing was a text, Deuteronomy 22:8, cited to support this claim, “When you build a new house, you shall make a parapet for your roof, that you may not bring the guilt of blood upon your house, if anyone should fall from it.” Jewish roofs were flat so people could walk on them, and a parapet around the edges would prevent people from falling off and becoming injured.
What was interesting was the connection by the Westminster Assembly of this zoning regulation to the 6th commandment, an exegetical connection that Calvin also makes in his commentary on the verse. Building a safeguard on the roof was an expression of loving your neighbor by preserving their life.
What would it take for someone to fall off without a parapet and die? They would have to be on the roof (not necessarily a regular occurrence, especially not your own house), would have to be either careless (their fault!) or slip (rare in a dessert), and then fall from a one-story roof in the just the wrong way to be fatally injured (unlikely from that height). Parapets were protection against an unlikely scenario that could just as easily be the fault of the person falling. And yet, God commanded that parapets be added to preserve human life. This is what keeping the 6th commandment looks like: protecting human life from what might appear an unlikely or dubious threat.
Now do masks with COVID-19.