Love For Our Community
“Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak.” - 1 Corinthians 8:9
Just last week, I attended a small gathering of leaders in our community. We met in a large room, over 400 square feet, and spread out to physically distance throughout the room. Before I even sat down, one of the leaders mentioned that in their occupation, they are serving some very compromised people, and because of that, they would be keeping their mask on. While it would cause some difficulty for this person, it made perfect sense. They were willing to work through their own discomfort for the sake of the individuals and community they were serving. They hoped we could endure their mask as well.
It made perfect sense.
I quickly realized, that if they could wear a mask, for their sake, I could wear my mask too.
A few moments in, another leader stepped away, exited the room… and came back in, wearing a mask. Moments later, I turned to my right, only to see another leader, wearing a mask.
It was completely unspoken. But it was felt - we were extending to each other, the love of Jesus Christ, the grace of God, the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. We didn’t have to. No one was standing over us, strong-arming us into wearing a mask. We chose to do so, for the sake of our friend.
That, to me, is a clear example of the community of faith, the body of Christ, living out one of the most difficult and challenging situations it faces, very early on.
You see, the Jewish community were absolutely forbidden from worshipping idols. But the First Century Greco-Roman culture was full of statues, idols, “gods” that were routinely venerated and worshipped, with food being offered to them, and then sold in the market. Since the food had been an “offering” to an “idol” the Jewish community were forbidden from eating that food too.
That wasn’t difficult Jerusalem or throughout Judea, where Jewish merchants sold food that expressly wasn’t first sacrificed to idols. But as Christianity grew and spread further and further throughout the Roman world, it was harder and harder to stay away from this food.
So the great food debate sprang up, and Paul, the leading authority on Jewish law among Christians, was forced to suggest a pastoral solution: for the sake of your brothers and sisters eat what’s placed in front of you, BUT, don’t flaunt your freedom!
Basically, Paul declared that it wasn’t necessary to abstain from food sacrificed to idols. Idols aren’t real gods anyway, so why make it a thing? But since not everyone was comfortable, just because you’re “free” it doesn’t mean you should use that freedom to hurt your “weaker” brothers and sisters.
What a perfect window into our current situation!
We’re being asked, begged to wear masks whenever we enter buildings or are in close proximity to people outside of our own immediate family.
Some people are arguing that we’re free, that we don’t have to wear masks. They are correct. I don’t expect you’ll be arrested for failing to wear a mask, and if you were, I expect that the Supreme Court would uphold your right to refuse.
The issue at stake is not our freedom. It’s our love for our community, for our brothers and sisters, especially those who are weaker, physically, than we may be.
It’s truly beautiful, when you look around and see person after person, setting aside their rights and sacrificing their own personal comfort, to love and care for each other.
I saw that when I gathered in that small group, I saw it when we gathered for worship, and I’m encouraged that I’ll continue to see it, because I know the depth of love that you have for each other and for our greater community.
Welcoming people to Grow in Jesus,