“Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen”
1 Peter 5:5b-11
In the last several months, we have had to navigate difficult times together as a church. These times have given rise to divisions in the church that are becoming more apparent as time goes on. Here are a couple of examples of the sorts of statements that we have heard in the last month:
“I am feeling my heart hardened towards my brothers and sisters in Christ through this time because I’m incredibly saddened in seeing so many of them ignore the mask requirements.”
“When I heard about the masks being required for Church, I cried all night long, because I long to worship with Christ’s people, but I am unable to wear a mask.”
As the elders of Coram Deo Church, our primary charge is to shepherd the flock and help bring the Word of God to bear on our lives. In light of this charge, we see the need to address the following question together: How do we walk faithfully with our God and one another when our own hearts and the world around are pulling us to turn against one another?
In this post, we want to point to Christ and his love for us, and how his love for us ought to impact the ways that we interact with one another.
Where We Find Ourselves
These are strange and contested times. We must acknowledge the reality of a virus that has taken and is taking the lives of many in our world. We must also acknowledge that this virus is not outside of God’s complete control. We must acknowledge the reality that we are living in an election year during one of the most divided times in our nation’s history. We must also acknowledge and stand firm in faith that the Lord also has our leaders, good or evil, in his hand: “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will” (Proverbs 21:1).
We must also acknowledge that we are all prone to pride and seeing right in our own ways: “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the heart” (Proverbs 21:2). The Lord weighs our hearts and he knows them much better than we do.
The Christian’s Call to Humility
As sinful people, our hearts are prone to self-protection and self-deception. This is ample reason for profound humility on the part of all, but as Christians, we have an even greater reason for humility.
In the 1 Peter 5 passage referenced above, when Peter calls the Church to humility toward one another, he is grounding that call in the reality of Christ’s humility: “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). Not only do we have reason for humility because we are prone to self-deception, but we also worship a Lord who humbled himself and calls us to follow him.
Christ, the beloved son of God, infinitely valuable, infinitely holy, infinitely worthy of every expense, breath, and praise, humbled himself, bearing the shame of our infinite unworthiness and paid for the sins of our pride on the Cross.
Yes, your sin.
Christian, it cannot be said enough: look to Christ and his humility in love for you when considering your actions and how you think of one another.
Peter reminds us of humility because we are prone to pride especially in how we walk with one another. He calls us to humility towards one another because we are prone to passing prideful judgment on one another.
Prideful judgment quickly turns into prideful division. We tend to look down on people who disagree with us and we fail to listen to one another.
Peter then calls us to be watchful, sober-minded and to stand firm in our faith in Christ and resist the Devil, because the Devil is in fact at work attempting to devour us and lead us away from Christ; he prowls like a lion to tear asunder the body of Christ.
We Ought to Examine Ourselves
The Church is not immune to such prideful division. You have undoubtedly seen it during these trying times. Perhaps you need to humbly confess that you have seen it at work in your own heart.
Particularly, in light of Governor Inslee’s mandate on the wearing of masks, we want to call the Church — the whole Church, not just those you disagree with — to look to Christ. Consider the love he has for those in the Church. Consider the love that Christ has for you and how he loved you and is so patient with you.
We must trust that God is at work during this time and that he intends to test and sanctify us through it. We must also walk in patience and with hope in the God of all grace, who has called us to his glory in Christ, and will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish us. (1 Peter 5:10). This posture of love, humility, and hope must be on display in the ways we interact with one another and during our times of Sunday Worship.
Let’s Get Practical
It would be easiest if everyone in the Church simply agreed about the masks, but this is not the case. But regardless of our disagreements, we all must examine our hearts and walk with humility before God and one another, understanding that it is Christ alone who unites us.
So what should our posture be towards one another and how do we embody this posture in the context of Sunday worship?
What Should Our Posture Be Towards One Another?
- We need to adopt a posture of humility that seeks to emulate Christ in His humility. (Phil. 2)
- We need to interact with our brothers and sisters charitably when they are doing something we ourselves would not do. (1 Peter 4:8)
- We need to remember that our unity is in Christ, not our ability to comply with the request to wear a mask. We are justified by Christ and our baptism is in Him, not a piece of cloth. (Eph. 4:4-6)
- We need to remember that a fellow believer who agrees with you is not more united to you in Christ than your brothers and sisters who disagree with you. (Eph. 4:4-6)
- We need to acknowledge that there will be those among us who cannot wear masks for legitimate reasons. (Gal. 6:2)
- We need to resist the worldly division that would elevate mask-wearing as the outward symbol of whether or not we love one another. (1 John 5:2)
- When we disagree with a brother or sister in Christ, we need to do so “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. 4:2-3) Especially on social media where the world is watching. (John 13:35)
- When we are offended or sinned against by a brother or sister, we need to go directly to them with our concerns, refusing to succumb to the temptation towards gossip or slander or allowing bitterness to build up. (Col. 3:13, Matt. 18:15-20)
- In all things, we need to put on a spirit of humility and service that seeks to honor others as greater than ourselves, even to the point of laying aside our Christian freedoms to do so. (Phil. 2:1-11)
How Are We Practically Dealing With This In The Context of Sunday Worship?
- We continue to request that participants over the age of two wear face coverings when they attend a worship service. In light of the humility, love, and service that Christ models for us, as well as the ways that we have asked you to examine your own heart, if you are able to do so, please wear a mask.
- We acknowledge that there are legitimate reasons that make individuals unable to wear a mask or need to remove their mask for a period of time during worship.
- We believe that excluding people who are not wearing masks would be functionally declaring that the unity of the body is found in mask-wearing, rather than Christ. As such, we cannot exclude those who are unable to wear a mask from Lord’s Day Worship.
- We request that if you need to remove your mask at any point, please make an effort to practice social distancing and maintain a minimum of six feet of separation with others who are wearing masks.
We love you and are thankful for the work that God is doing in our church. More importantly, God loves you and he is faithful to continue the good work that he has started. This is a very difficult season and we are all wrestling with how to be faithful to our Lord. If you are struggling, please reach out to one of the pastors so that we can wrestle with this together. If you have questions, please reach out to us at email@example.com and we will do our best to address them in a helpful manner.
The Elders of Coram Deo Church