Summary: To mask or not to mask...hmmm.
Sometimes, within the Lord's Church, faithful followers disagree. In fact, there are times when folks in the Body of Christ, who genuinely enjoy solid, wonderful, fellowship, disagree. On matters of prime importance--the essentials* of our faith--these folks stand with complete agenda harmony. However, on some things, not of prime importance, they choose to disagree with understanding, love, and compassion. This does not hurt their fellowship. In fact, if they are careful, their fellowship grows, their depth expands, their resolve tempers, their commitment strengthens. We find ourselves in such times. We are faced with a particular issue in which believers do not always agree. Here it is: do we follow our government's directions on safety protocols regarding Covid 19? At West Sound Community Church, we have chosen to do so. What follows is why.
First, we must hasten to say we will not cover all the biblical issues wrapped up in this decision. A complete analysis would include exposition on several topics. These might best be quickly mentioned via several questions:
Am I my brother's keeper?
Am I to be a Good Samaritan?
Am I to make sacrifices on behalf of others?
Am I to submit my liberty to the preeminence of love?
Do the words of Jesus still apply: "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends?"
Do the words of Jesus still apply: "What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray?"
Do the words of Jesus still apply: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself?"
Do the words of Jesus still apply: "But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you?"
The answers are yes...and they are quite significant within the Church's current conversation concerning whether or not to follow community guidelines about social distancing. After all, no matter if we agree or disagree, as Christ followers we must always consider the Love Factor...how do we best demonstrate God's love to a world that does not know him? If time permitted, it would be both pleasing and profitable to tackle each of the above questions to see how each of them enhances our best practices for the topic at hand. However, time does not permit. Instead, like churches across the globe, we must tackle the big one: to mask or not to mask, to distance or not to distance, these are the questions. In other words, in order to Glorify God through The Great Commission is it time to engage in civil disobedience? Let's see...
Most folks who know their Bibles realize God's Word addresses "civil disobedience" head on. In fact, there are some primary passages that must be understood with any discussion in which we participate concerning this form of interaction between us and appointed authorities. These passages fall into two camps: those that clearly teach us to obey our ruling authorities and those that clearly teach us that on some occasions we must disobey our ruling authorities.
First, there are those that teach us to obey our ruling authorities. Three of them are primary in this study. Take your time. Read them several times. Also, read them within their contexts. They are quite straight forward and accessible.
"Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? 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. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed."
"Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. 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."