We Gather Together
by David Dahl
But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 1 Corinthians 8:9
The last few months have presented us with a constant array of challenges as a church. The latest challenge may be the trickiest yet: how to wisely resume in-person gatherings. This is my plea to you: Please pray for your Church Council and your pastors as we navigate the course ahead.
We’ll be talking about these days for decades to come. So what do you want to remember? Let me volunteer something: As Christians, we have a unique opportunity to model Christ’s love that places the interests of others above ourselves. Here, love has two key pieces to it: Patience and Honor.
Patience is one of the rarest virtues in today’s insta-everything world. And yet patience has rarely been more needed. Many of us are so antsy to break free of “safer at home” and the isolation it brings. We want to get back to normal – just like the normal I used to know 3 months ago – and I want that “normal” now.
We’ve been invaded by an unseen enemy. Thank God, few of us have had a personal experience with Covid19; few of us have had to care for a loved one suffering from this virus. But it is real, and it isn’t going anywhere. This is an opportunity for loving patience. We need to be patient with leaders feeling the pressure of this complex situation; and patient with one another as we figure out the clunky process of “re-opening.” Those who are not comfortable with physical gatherings should be patient with those who are, and vice versa. As hard as it will be to practice patience, remember that in the scheme of eternity, this season— whether it’s months long or years—will be but a blip.
To be sure, it is good and right to be eager to gather again as churches. We should take Hebrews 10:25 seriously when it says we ought not neglect meeting together. We will continue providing online streaming of our times of worship, and we are planning on resuming “in-person” worship soon. That day will come. For now, please exercise patience.
Secondly, Honor one another: Paul writes to people who celebrated the freedom that Jesus gave them to be careful in their exercise of such liberty. In Paul’s case, the issue was eating certain foods that were often blessed in pagan temples before they were offered for sale. Some thought, “We’re free in Christ and don’t need to worry about pagan rituals at the butcher shop as long as it’s good meat. Others took issue refusing to eat meat as they saw it as an endorsement of pagan idols and a doorway into worshipping idols. Paul’s instruction was to honor the more restrictive position. He writes in 1 Corinthians 8:9 “But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.” Here’s an example for our day: Some of us find it difficult—even maddening—to wear a mask and stay six feet away from others. Some of us think these precautions are a needless overreaction to the point of being silly, or even cowardly. Others of us feel the necessity of all these precautions. We don’t want to endanger someone else, and we’ve had experiences that dictate we observe them.
Here’s the application of Paul’s point: Even if you think these precautions are a needless overreaction, can you not sacrifice your ideal for a season, out of love for others who believe the precautions are necessary? Likewise, those who think the lockdowns should continue should not pass judgment on those who question the wisdom of such restrictions.
No one said that love was easy. Now is a great opportunity to exercise it. Be patient with each other and honor one another.
The day will come when “normal” will feel more normal. That’s not today. Until then, we love and support one another in new and creative ways as we follow Christ together. We look toward the day when Jesus will bring this piece of history to an end and open to us the doors of His kingdom. One day, we’ll celebrate a new normal we will never want to give up.
Until that day, let us all Keep and Live the Faith!
Pr. David G. Dahl
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