These days have been incredibly divisive. Our society continues to fracture at the seams. Gone are the common values we have held near and dear to Canadian culture.
These challenges have not left the Church unaffected. Congregations are divided over how to respond to the various issues that have arisen. Masks, vaccines, government shutdowns, and vaccine certifications have caused Christians who are otherwise likeminded theologically to turn against one another.
Part of our struggle is to keep our eyes on the main thing. The Church of Jesus Christ exists for all people, to minister out of love, and to strengthen our consciences so that they align with the heart of God. These days have been difficult to discern how to move forward wisely. We patiently endure hardship (James 5:7-11) and are slow to accuse others of bad motives, seeking to believe the best of others (1 Cor. 13:4-7). We do not need the government’s permission to meet – we have the command of the King who is above all kings who has called us to encourage one another and not forsake public worship (Heb. 10:24-25). But we gladly choose to submit to governing authorities when it is out of love for our neighbours’ good.
By choosing to stay in our “gospel lane,” we are driven by theological convictions out of love for God and love for our neighbours. What this means practically is that when it comes to public worship, we are aiming for three things:
First, we believe that the message of the gospel is for all. It is not just for the Jew or the Greek, the slave or the free, men or women, circumcised or uncircumcised, but for all. While ethnicity, social status, or gender could not be something that people in Biblical times could choose, the circumcision issue was a matter of choice and conscience.
Second, we believe that the church is not to bind people’s consciences on disputable matters. Romans 14 makes this clear – we are to welcome one another because we are united in Christ, not whether we eat the same food, come from the same background, or choose the same medical choices. Christ is greater than all of these choices. While there are certain health and cultural benefits one may follow, we believe as a church that disputable matters need to be left to the individual and those professionals who are giving guidance on non-biblical matters.
Finally, we prefer one another. We love one another not by asserting our individual rights, but what is best for one another. We wear masks out of love for one another. We screen carefully and do not come to church when we are showing signs of sickness. We do not insist others think like us or demand that our way be followed on matters of conscience.
These principles are what are guiding us when it comes to vaccines and certification. We do not insist on vaccine certification. But we do insist that you prefer one another by protecting one another’s health, that you give room for disputable matters, and that we keep the gospel message available to all.
And as we keep our eyes on the main thing and stay in our “gospel lane,” we trust that we will be brought together as brothers and sisters in Christ.
So let’s keep our eyes on the main thing. We can come through this stronger in Christ Jesus!