July 23, 2020
Dear Canyon View Family,
In the midst of this COVID-19 pandemic I am quite aware that we all have some strong opinions and feelings about how this has impacted our lives. It’s evident that many are on edge due to the tensions it’s created. I have to admit this has been extremely difficult to navigate through as a pastor. As I said in my sermon last Sunday…”We’re in a place that we’ve never been before.” So how do we proceed forward? We need to go to the trail map of God’s Word to guide us.
Obviously the Bible doesn’t say anything specific about what to do in the midst of a global pandemic. For instance there is no 11th commandment that says…”Thou shalt wear thy mask in church during a viral pandemic.” Regardless of what our opinions are on this covid situation, the fact remains that we have to utilize some spiritual principles to help guide us through this together. And let me add this stark reality - Satan is chomping at the bit to use this mask situation to bring division in the church.
The first biblical principle to apply here is “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:31). The challenge this commandment brings to us is to be other-centered. As Jesus demonstrated, this kingdom principle means laying down our preferences for the benefit of others. Jesus showed us on the cross this extreme form of sacrifice for the sake of others. 2 Corinthians 5:15 says…”He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.”
Now let’s apply this to our principle of wearing masks during church. I respect everyone’s opinions and convictions regarding this, but when I apply this to Jesus’ mandate to love our neighbor as ourselves, I have to consider the thoughts and feelings of others. Needless to say many believe the threat of the COVID-19 virus is real. It’s a real virus and, as of today, over 4 million people have been diagnosed with the virus, and there have been 145,000 deaths. To many, the fear is genuine. So to give my brothers and sisters a sense of being safe in a large gathering like church, I choose to wear my mask and respect the need to utilize social distancing. Pardon the pun but God’s love for others needs to trump my own beliefs or political convictions.
Paul spoke of this same principle in Romans 14:13-19 that says…”So let's stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall.14 I know and am convinced on the authority of the Lord Jesus that no food, in and of itself, is wrong to eat. But if someone believes it is wrong, then for that person it is wrong. 15 And if another believer is distressed by what you eat, you are not acting in love if you eat it. Don't let your eating ruin someone for whom Christ died. 16 Then you will not be criticized for doing something you believe is good. 17 For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you, too. 19 So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.”
Just like the tension that surfaced in the church in Corinth over what food is allowed to be eaten due to religious convictions, Paul saw the divisive nature of the believers' difference of opinions. So the principle he gave is to avoid causing another believer to stumble or fall. (v.13). I have received input that there are some fellow believers that are fearful of coming to our weekend service due to the large number of people not wearing masks. However I also know there are some that refuse to come to church because of their convictions and refusal to wear a mask.
V. 17 says that the Kingdom of God is really about…”living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Man do we live in a world that is void of those Godly attributes. We are filled with suspect, fear and rage as we’ve become so polarized. So what is the Holy Spirit saying to each of us about what we can do to bring goodness, peace and joy into our fellowship? Can we accept the challenge to wear our masks for the sake of our brothers and sisters that would prefer it and create a sense of honoring one another in our gatherings?
Obviously if you have a legitimate medical condition that restricts you from wearing a mask, I understand that. Thank you for utilizing social distancing to make others feel comfortable. As Paul said in V. 19, “So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.” Let’s all pray and lay down our personal convictions and act to bring harmony in the church. I know it’s VERY challenging for us to hear this during this crazy global crisis. Our emotions have been worn raw. I thank you in advance as we all respond to God’s love by loving our neighbors as ourselves. I would appreciate it if those who are able to wear masks during our church service would do so to honor one another graciously. The end game is to promote unity within the family of CVVC.
Paul then says…”Don't tear apart the work of God over what you eat. Remember, all foods are acceptable, but it is wrong to eat something if it makes another person stumble.” (Romans 12:20). Let’s all join hands (metaphorically) to not let the mask mandate tear our church body apart. Instead we can use this to prove our unity and love for each other. Thank you for your understanding.
Soli Deo Gloria,