Lately I have heard the phrase, “we live in unprecedented times” pop up over and over. These may be unprecedented times in most of our lives, but I am not so sure they are unprecedented in the history of the world. There have been other pandemics and there will be others in the future. There has been civil unrest on a grand scale before and there will be again. There have been stock market fluctuations, political discord, and angry youth before and there will be as long as this world spins. The church cannot control these external situations, but we can control how we respond. As I tell my girls all of the time, “Life is less about how you act and more about how you react.”
Most of you have probably heard by now that we will be asked to wear masks in public places for the foreseeable future; specifically as we worship on Sunday mornings. This has the potential to be a divisive issue in our culture and even in the life of LifePoint Church. There are those who have said they will not wear a mask under any circumstance, and there are those who will not leave the house without one on. It is my prayer that something as small as wearing a mask will not be a testimony to the local community about how fragile our unity in Christ actually is.
Full disclosure, I am on the side of thinking wearing a mask in public is unhelpful. I hate the way it feels, the way it looks, the way it robs us of non-verbal communication and ultimately some of our humanity. I struggle with whether the government has the power to mandate and enforce it, and my stubbornness and pride make me want to dig in my heels in protest. But then I look at some of my friends, who are compromised in their health and are genuinely fearful. I see their desire to be around other believers in the midst of this fearful season. They want to run to their Christian brothers and sisters for comfort as they should, but are scared. I have begun to realize that if the simple act of wearing a mask puts them at ease, why would I not willingly do that?
While it is not necessarily the same thing, I do think there are some principles in the way Paul addresses division in the Corinthian church that relate here. The issue for them was food offered to idols. There were those who felt uneasy about eating meat that was laid before an idol. For them it was a big issue and they felt uneasy about it and it was beginning to impact the unity of the church. Paul addresses the issue by saying essentially, “Eating the meat is not a sin because idols are fake and there is nothing to them so we are free to eat.” But he goes on to say, “It is up to the more mature believers to adapt their actions to promote unity for the weaker brothers and sisters.” He even goes so far to say, “If me eating meat offered to an idol causes one person to stumble, then I’ll give up meat altogether!” This is convicting for me. Imagine loving your neighbor enough to give up meat! I love steak, chicken, hamburgers, and fish. I love it all and yet Paul says that he would give it all up for the unity of the church! Such was his love for the church!
I know there are religious connotations to the issue in Corinth, but I do think the greater issue of church unity is a principle that can carry over into our current situation. I don’t want to wear a mask. I hate it. But, if the simple act of putting a mask on creates a spirit of comfort and unity with my fellow believers, then I’ll gladly put one on. I think Paul would say, “If someone is uncomfortable with me not having a mask on then I’ll gladly put on a hazmat suit for the sake of my weaker brother.”
May our love one for another cause us to seek ways to serve others…even in the face of inconvenience and discomfort.
Pastor Nate Gast