Luke 19-21 (The Daily Walk Bible).
I have something that I want to share that doesn’t actually correlate with the Bible reading for today.
Earlier this week I was reminded once again that the whole issue of masks, vaccines, and social distancing isn’t going away anytime soon. I was especially struck by the lack of grace that believers can have towards one another regarding the issue. It just so happened that I received an email that discussed this very issue today from a Bible teacher that I follow online. It resonated with me so I want to share some of it with you. Unfortunately I could not find the information in a public forum, so I don’t feel that I can share the name of the individual. I hope that you find the message as though provoking as I did.
I have spoken with enough pastors to know that mask mandates are tearing churches apart. People are leaving the church. Pastors are leaving their church.
I think the basic principle is clear: obey your governing rulers, even if that ruler is Nero, as in Paul’s day. But when the government tells you to do something that is contrary to God’s laws, then we cannot obey the government. God outweighs Nero. But are mask mandates contrary to God’s laws — I’m still looking for that verse — or are they a violation of my personal freedom?
I was reading Romans 14 the other day, and if you allow me the freedom to change the text a little, you’ll see what I am getting at. The words in italics are mine, not Paul’s. The difficulty of this passage is determining which theological position is “weak” and which is “strong,” so I will paraphrase the passage two different ways.
Paul starts with his general principle. “Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. “ And then he continues:
“One person’s faith requires them to wear masks, but another, whose faith is weak, does not wear masks. The one who wears a mask must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not wear a mask must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them.”
Now to switch the weak and strong:
“One person’s faith requires them not to wear masks, but another, whose faith is weak, wears masks. The one who does not wear a mask must not treat with contempt the one who does wear a mask, and the one who does not wear a mask must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them.”
And Paul continues:
“Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. None of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. Each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.”
And to put a final note of solemnity behind all this, I was reading in 1 Cor 8:12 this morning about the same topic of “weak” and “strong”:
“When you sin against them [i.e., your brothers and sisters] in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.”
Before you start guessing what I believe about masks, be assured that you cannot tell from what I am saying. Please don’t shoot the messenger. But I am convinced that the COVID pandemic has given Christians the greatest platform we have had in years to show our neighbors that we are different and that our hope is not in this world but in Christ.
When we split churches, we have failed.