This video briefly summarizes my objection to pastors and churches claiming that withdrawing from others, wearing masks and living lives of fear is the best way to love your neighbor. Voddie Baucham does not mention masks, but I have heard pastors attach being carried with the unscientific lunacy we see all around us (unless you live in Sweden) to the standard of loving your neighbor.
Loving your neighbor sounds like a great idea, something we really ought to consider. Setting aside your rights for the good of others really feels like the sort of thing that a Christian should be quick to do. It’s all just so… so… FLUFFY! But with just a little discernment and a little study, you can see that there is a very strong statement underneath all of the cocoa with marshmallows cozyness.
28 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”Mark 12:28-31 ESV
Loving your neighbor is the same thing as following the second tablet of the Law handed down to Moses. Failing to love your neighbor is not just a bad idea and not just a loss of warm fuzzies. Failing to love your neighbor is sin. Thus, these pastors are placing a sin burden on anyone who differs with them. Theological malpractice.
Anyone who visits an elderly grandparent now is questioning if it is more sinful to visit them or to abandon them to loneliness. Anyone frustrated with the ever changing statements regarding masks to the point where they choose to abstain is now left to question if they are sinning with every breath. Anyone choosing to refuse to live a life of fear is threatened with the burden of sin.
Allow me to present a different way of approaching this.
There is a principal of the weaker brother, originally used with meat that had been sacrificed in idol worship, now used frequently with Christians discussing whether alcohol should be allowed or forbidden. The most common proof text for this is 1 Corinthians 8, but I believe Romans 14 gives a better look at the concept.
Romans 14 begins by telling Christians not to quarrel over opinions. Regarding meat, one person is convinced that it is just meat and can be consumed. The other person is convinced that the meat is tainted with idolatry, and refuses to eat. Both of these people are convinced in their own minds (verse 5) and that is OK. What is not OK is when one of them judges the other for a position that is not sinful, which leads to quarrels, which leads to divisions within the church. The Bible says nothing positive whatsoever about the person causing division, also known as discord, among the gathering of God’s people. It is cited in Proverbs 6:16-19 as an abomination before the Lord.
Divisions in the church aren’t about meat today. Divisions right now are more about whether the building should be open, whether the church should accept visitors, whether the people should pre-register, whether everyone inside should be required to wear a mask. And instead of appealing to the liberty that is ours to decide for ourselves what we ought to do, people are trying to coerce others into doing what they feel is right, in some cases they are misrepresenting Romans 13 in order to do it. That is a separate post, in case you’re wondering, but I will say that Jesus is Lord of the church, not Caesar. The people pushing to bind others in ways that are not authorized by scripture should be avoided and in some cases cast out of the church. Yes, I’m serious.
17 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. 18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.Romans 16:17-18
I have been part of an elder board during a pandemic. I know the stresses that are involved as you try to balance what to do and how to go about it. I understand how different people have different levels of fear of the unknown. I get it.
I also understand that in the Law handed down to Moses, instructions are given about infectious diseases. To summarize, we are instructed to quarantine the symptomatic. They are to remain apart from the rest of society until their symptoms have ceased and they can be verified as no longer being a danger to the population. Then they are able to rejoin society. What are the instructions to the healthy? I can’t seem to find any restrictions placed upon them at all. And before anyone says that they didn’t know about COVID-19 back then, just remember who came up with the Law that was given to Moses in the first place. No virus has caught the God of the Universe off guard.
So if you are a church official pondering how to approach this subject, please consider what I have shared here. Your job is not to place a new sin burden upon others. Your job is to foster a community of grace filled people who can make up their own minds about how to proceed and who will live according to their conscience, all without binding the conscience of everyone around them with their opinions.
18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”Matthew 16:18-19 ESV