I’m sure you have heard the news that effective 8/12, Philadelphia is again under an indoor mask mandate for businesses and organizations that do not require proof of vaccination. This is certainly not what any of us hoped for and definitely feels like a blow, especially after making so much progress. However, with the Delta variant sending so many unvaccinated people to the hospital and causing an overcrowding crisis, it is not surprising that Philadelphia has taken this step per CDC guidelines.
So how do we respond? First, it is ok to be discouraged. God has created in His image, and part of being His image bearer is that He has made us to be communicators. While we can communicate in various ways, there is something particularly poignant about seeing someone face to face (1 Thessalonians 2:27). So being asked to put a mask on is significant, and it is ok to be sad. As Christians, we believe this world is a broken place, and when we come into contact with that brokenness, lament is the proper response.
Second, I know it is very tempting to be frustrated. Some might be frustrated at this drastic step, and you feel it is unnecessary. Others might be frustrated that this wouldn’t have happened if more people had just gotten vaccinated. So how do we, as Christians, work through our frustrations with others?
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1Co 13:4-7 ESV)
These are the qualities that God wants us to practice towards one another: This kind of love is hard. Actually, this kind of love is impossible. And so, it is no mistake that 1 Corinthians 13 takes place right between chapters 12 and 14, which talk about the Holy Spirit. Only through the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives can we walk in this supernatural love. It is the Holy Spirit who comes and strengthens us to know the love of Christ (Ephesians 3:14-19), and then, as we experience Holy Spirit strengthened mediations on Christ’s great love, this is what fills us with love for one another. So may our frustrations with each other give way to love as we experience the unity that the Spirit brings through turning our hearts to the Gospel of Jesus.
Third, as Christians, we are first citizens of heaven and answer to the Lord of Heaven. Therefore, what a civil government says is not necessarily binding on us if it demands us to disobey God either by commission or omission. Civil disobedience is the godly course of action when Government mandates are compromising biblical commands. However, civil disobedience is only justified when Government mandates are compromising biblical commands. Scripture makes it clear that we are to submit to our civil authorities as unto the Lord as much as possible. “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” (Rom 13:1 ESV) Being told to wear a mask does not hinder our ability to gather and worship (which God commands us to do-Hebrews 10:25). Therefore, there is no Biblical justification for disobeying this indoor mask mandate for public settings, and it would be sinful for us to do so. While we are sad to take this step, we need to trust God and honor Him by obeying the authorities He has put in place and once again require masks for all attendees at the public gathering at our church building for our Sunday Services.
This Sunday, it is not by chance that we will be finishing our series in Luke by studying the dazzling truths of Jesus’ ascension. Friends, Jesus is right now sitting on His throne, ruling and reigning over all things, and directing us, His church, forward on the mission. We did not anticipate having to wear masks again, but our Sovereign Lord is not surprised. And as a church, we have seen at every juncture during this pandemic that God has been faithful to us and, by His grace, has continued to use us to be fruitful for His mission. Since Jesus is reigning as our ascended Lord, this mandate is not a setback. This is just the latest setup that God is using to shine forth His incomparable glory. I can’t wait to be with you on Sunday and to worship our great God together.
I hope to see you on the Lord’s day, at our sacred assembly, the best day of the week!