A LONG, BUT IMPORTANT SUBJECT!!!
Some things which MUST be addressed! PLEASE at least consider it because it will make a difference in the future!
In order for the Church of God to be healthy. In order for us to get on the same page with one another. And in order for the Lord Christ to be glorified and for us to love one another in the future, better then we have, we must deal with a variety of issues. But a couple of these I want to address here.
For instance, bear with me please. During Covid, which did expose a variety of views and theological issues for the Church, we all had many ways of dealing with it, and still do, but there was a lot of confusion as to “how” to respond to it. There were two key issues. One was a health concern, the other was an issue of authority (Church/Government) concern. I think I want to replay, or pretend things just started, say it is March 2020. Some things were quickly exposed: Fears, doctrinal differences, strong personal views, views of Church and State, etc.
THE CHURCH – Regarding “how” we should handle issues of Health/Authority: For the Body-of-Christ, or the Church as a unit, we are to, according to scripture,”…with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love… (in keeping peace with one another) (Eph. 4:2) And regarding our freedoms in Christ, say, whether to wear a mask, or gather or not, etc. Paul says, “But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak” (1 Cor 8:9) “Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ” (1 Cor 8:12). Okay, those are serious things. With that being said, if a brother or sister came to me and said, please wear your mask “because” I am afraid, or unsure, or I am scared, I have doubts, etc. I “out of love” will put my mask on and stay distant from them. BUT, if that brother or sister said, “put it on because of the government’s orders”, THEN it would not be because they are “weak” but because they do not correctly understand the scriptures regarding government vs God and where the lines are drawn according to a proper interpretation of scripture. And so, this last issue is something which every pastor needs to deal with, before the next virus/plague comes, even though some congregants may leave. The reason is, Romans Chapter 13 which says, “For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad…. Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer” (Rom 13:3-4). And Peter said, “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor” (1 Pet 2:13-17). According to the rest of scripture, “doing what is good, or right, is always aligned with the nature and definition of who God is. Jesus himself said “only God is good” and whenever something deserves “wrath or punishment” in the scriptures, they are things which always oppose the nature and definition of the Lord, who opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. He opposes the wicked, who do not fear God, but gives favor and blessing to those who honor and worship Him. Basically, any authority which “hinders” the glory, worship, and praise of God, the Lord opposes that authority.
Now we already know that Hebrews says to not forsake the assembling of the Church together, especially as we near the return of the Lord. (Heb 10:25). We also know that throughout church history it has always gathered, and even more so during times of crisis. We know that the definition of the Church is as a unit. As One Body. As collective. It has never entered the mind of God as shown in scripture, for the Church to ever “intentionally” not gather, whatever the reason may be.
So, what do we do about plagues/viruses, or the threat of them? We FIRST, love God by worship and obedience. And we SECOND, love one another by encouraging one another to gather, and by bearing with the weak who are unsure about gathering. Therefore, those who desire to gather and celebrate the Lord together, may, and those who desire to stay home, and watch online, may. Because we are all on a journey of growing in faith and relationship with the Lord. BUT, with that being said, those who are strong in faith, which should be all pastors, need to set the perfect example by doing the “best” thing, doing what is right and good in the eyes of the Lord by modeling gathering and worship of God and singing praise to His name. Supporting those who desire to gather and encourage one another to seek the Lord together as scripture points to. Maybe, this action would give “courage” or en-couragement to those who are weak or uncertain to come gather and fellowship eventually?? Also, IF it encourages the them to gather with the Body-of-Christ if the rest of the Body wear masks, then okay! One’s conscience should weigh in here though!
THE WORLD – Health/Authority: Now, there is much less to write here. We know that the standards and expectations that are set by the Lord for the Church body vs the world, who do not belong to Him, are at completely opposite ends! Because “in their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor 4:4). I want to make an important, true, distinction between how the children of God respond to a crisis with how the children of “Adam” or of this world respond to one. The “children of God” respond by, faith, trust, prayer, the Word of God, gathering to support one another, praying for one another, helping one another, encouraging one another, loving one another, and by “looking up” in hope and expectation of the Lord’s return. The “world” responds by, fear, panic, uncertainty, anxiety, clinging to the world, and looking to the “wisdom” of THEIR authorities (government apart from the wisdom of God. Ie: America). Whereas Christian’s, according to the Apostle James, are to look to God’s wisdom, which is the opposite of the wisdom of the world.
There is so much I could write about all of this, regarding “how we did it wrong” but how some have recovered and chosen to do better now, and have learned over time, thankfully! But…our God is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in loving kindness! But let us not test His patience!! Those who are mature in faith, and leaders, should now lead well and fix whatever does not align with the Lord’s call to His Church. Someday I will address the difference between what it truly looks like for us to “love one another” vs “appeasing one another”.
Thank you for reading this if you got this far! The reason that it is important that we learn from this is that we will be tested in the future. I believe…
LASTLY: What does Psalm 91 mean for you. Can you trust Him? This promise IS for those who COMPLETLY “hide” in Him alone!
"He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
You will not fear the terror of the night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
You will only look with your eyes
and see the recompense of the wicked.
Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place—
the Most High, who is my refuge—
no evil shall be allowed to befall you,
no plague come near your tent..." (Ps. 91:1-10)