Most of us have seen that patience is wearing rather thin in many parts of our society as far as the lockdown is concerned. People generally want to start living again and to get back to some normality. As a result, we have already seen several protests aimed at governments who are perceived to be slow in easing restrictions surrounding the pandemic and lifting border restrictions.
So, what should our response be as restrictions are slowly eased as churches? How are we to prudently resume worship at church, keeping in mind the requirements to continue social distancing and limiting crowd size? What is our duty of care to all concerned, and especially to those who are more vulnerable to this virus? If we do re-open, should we insist on everyone wearing masks? Should we sing or not sing? How do we lovingly deal with each other since some will be eager to meet in person while others may think it is unwise to meet until there is a vaccine?
As Christians our desire should always be to move forward in beautiful unity (Psa 133) rather than ugly division. Although it will not be easy, by God’s grace and Holy Spirit there is the opportunity for us to model love that places the interests of others above the self. You might think the restrictions outlined by the government are a needless overreaction, but out of love for others who believe the precautions and restrictions are necessary, we should not insist on our own way. Some may decide to stay at home while others might like to wear masks and still others might like to wait until a vaccine is developed. That is the freedom we have as Christians (Romans 14, 1 Cor 8:9).
Churches and their leaderships should strive to honour people on both sides of the spectrum. Yes, it will be a sacrifice for church members who are sick of masks, social distancing, and pre-recorded or Zoom services but such love and care for others may be required a little while longer. Whatever opinions church leaders themselves have on the matter of re-opening, they should take time to humbly hear the voices of others. None of us should assume we have arrived at the definitive answer on how to do this well. Therefore, let us model humility (Phi 2:1-11).
To be sure, it is good and right to be eager to gather again as churches (Heb 10:25). However, we should be careful to not go faster than governments allow, or faster than those in our community can understand. If churches are going to emerge from this crisis with unity and fellowship intact, as well as showing that we genuinely love God and our neighbour, we must recognize that truth is rarely as simple as Twitter or Facebook would have us believe.
So, let us together pray for wisdom so that we can make wise, God-honouring decisions. Let us be sober minded and not resort to peddling outrageous conspiracy theories. And pray that we continue to honour those in authority over us, and when needed, engage in loving, gracious pushback.
Finally, please do not see Covid-19 restrictions as an attack on Christians or that our governments have some hidden agenda to close churches down. Although we may not be able to meet together for a while, let us be thankful that as a local Church fellowship we continue to be committed to the gospel and it continues to be proclaimed through various technologies that the Lord has given for our use. And while we look forward to meeting again face to face, let us in the meantime do what Paul urged the Ephesian Christians to do, “Walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:1–3). JZ (Adapted from an article written by Brett McCracken)