I love what The Presbytery of Greater Atlanta has come up with in terms of advising their congregations about “re-opening.”*
There are two columns of advice published side by side. The first column states OPENING UP AMERICA GUIDELINES. The second column states the PRESBYTERY OF GREATER ATLANTA RECOMMENDATIONS FOR CHURCHES. Reading it reminds me about what Jesus said here.
In a nutshell, Jesus pointed out what the law said (“You’ve heard it said . . . “) and then he offers a different standard (“But I say . . . “)
We who are familiar with Jesus know this ratcheted-up version of the law:
- Turn the other cheek.
- Share your coat AND your cloak.
- Do not look at other people with lust (i.e. don’t objectify them.)
- Love your enemies (also reconcile with them)
If you read the whole passage, Jesus is clearly asking us to be outrageously loving towards other people – including the ones who make us crazy/angry/feel hurt. This is coming from the guy who prayed that God would forgive the very people who tortured and executed him.
Jesus’ rules are really, really hard to follow. The focus is on loving our neighbors. Sounds easy but it’s not easy.
And this is why the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta (and maybe other Christian leaders) are saying that . . .
- While Phase 1 in much of America has said “no more than ten people should gather” . . .
- . . . They are recommending that “churches should continue recording worship serviced while maintaining six feel of social distancing.”
In North Carolina, the governor is receiving constant pressure to allow churches to “open” again which makes the assumption that our churches have been closed. Almost no churches have “closed” where I live. Here’s one group of leaders recently highlighted on WRAL in Raleigh. (Thank you colleagues.)
Amen and amen.
We who are keeping our church buildings closed beyond the state requirements could be called overly cautious or even “faithless” (if we believe that tempting God is okay.) We are doing this not because we believe that COVID-19 is more powerful than the Creator. We are doing this to protect the vulnerable among us – the immune-deficient, the elderly, those with respiratory conditions. Many of the most vulnerable would be the first to come into our sanctuaries and sit on pews and hold hymnals and even share a common cup – if that’s what somebody said was okay.
We’ve heard it said that worshipping six feet apart and refraining from passing the peace is the law. But Jesus said we need to go further for the sake of the vulnerable.
At least this is how I interpret scripture. Everything in Scripture from Genesis to the Revelation points to this Truth. Read this.
So, please stay home – even if the law says it’s okay to venture out and get a pedicure. Can we at least consider sacrificing our personal desires for the safety of others for just a little longer?
* If your church has continued to offer worship and mission, you have never closed.