The results are in. Life, as we knew it, is now different than it was. For 18 months we shut down, stifled, reduced, stopped, cut back, and altered the ways we functioned both as individuals and as a church. In doing so, we aggravated those who disagreed with our approach, we disengaged from family and friends, and we isolated ourselves in a preventive manner in order to stay safe. Safety was the key – don’t catch anything, don’t spread anything. It was the safe thing to do. We created an instant culture of compliance or rebellion. Our outward spirituality was determined by whether we wore a mask, how often we wore a mask, and where we wore the mask, or didn’t.
Our church leaders have tried to deal with this new form of legalism and some have done better than others. But regardless of which decisions were made and followed, the results are that some people have left our circle of friends and left our churches simply because they disagreed with the direction that had been taken. Christians who cannot seem to agree with something as mundane as wearing masks have broken fellowship one with another. It is sad, but true. Even as our society loosens up, we still look askew at those who do or do not comply with our position.
It has happened before. The Apostle Paul had to deal with the Christians who lived in Corinth and who were bent out of shape by some who ate meat offered to idols or those who didn’t. Those who did eat those hamburgers, enjoyed it, but those who did not eat them could not believe the sinfulness of those who did. And they broke fellowship. Why, even a cloth worn over the head of a man or a woman in public and in prayer became a divisive spiritual indicator and a cause to break fellowship – see 1 Corinthians 10 & 11. (We used to struggle with that issue as a church half a century ago, but got over it.) The Apostle Paul said, “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many that they may be saved.” (1Cor. 10:31-33)
So I guess it comes down to what is your motivation for what you have decided to do. Is it for the glory of God? Is it in order to make a political statement? Is it because of a personal health issue that you stay away from others? Or, is it simply a preference and a convenience to no longer fellowship with your church family and friends? It does not bring glory to God, nor does it make a loving statement to the world around us, for us to break fellowship with each other, as brothers and sisters of His Son Jesus Christ, over Covid and any of its related implications. None of us are islands unto our ourselves. God said, It is not good for man (or woman) to be alone. (Gen. 2:18) We need each other.
Life is very different now than it had been. It is now possible to watch your church and family on your computer without interacting with them. You can listen to the music, hear the prayers, and get the sermon from the comfort of your easy chair. But is that passiveness really the worship of God that brings glory to Himself? The interactions with fellow believers, the participation in corporate singing, the ability to focus on what God has to say to us through His Word as proclaimed by His servant behind the pulpit, collectively participating in the Lord’s Supper, are all integral parts of our spiritual lives. Add to that the deep relationships that develop within small groups and we discover that life can be different than it was. It can be better. Let’s make it so.
“Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Heb.10:25).