It’s evident that the people in our church have varying opinions and levels of comfort with meeting in person. This in mind, the most important guidelines we can offer in moving forward are some Biblical principles to help you love and care for your brothers and sisters in Christ.
1 – Love & Grace
“Walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 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 4:1b-3
Grace should be the word constantly coming to mind as we navigate the different places our people are. With the divide in opinions, this could easily be a time where division occurs among our people. But, we are called to bear with one another in love, being eager (“make every effort” (NIV)) to maintain our unity as God’s people. We can lead our people in this way by reminding the group we are for one another – we are on the same team. Our focus on gathering again should be as a unified people coming together to find a solution, not as individuals at different places against each other. Remember, our church is not an event but a people, and our goal is not just to have gatherings in person again, but to love and build up God’s people in whatever position they’re in.
2 – Humility
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” – Phil 2:3-4
We are called to count others as more significant than ourselves. In order to do that, we truly need to understand where they are at and what would be beneficial for them. This will require a lot of listening and thoughtfulness about the positions of those in your group. Even though this might mean more conversations than normal (with individuals and your group), we are called to understand and act on “the interests of others.” We should have compassion on those in our group and the positions they might be in and lay aside our own interests for them (1 John 3:16-18). It’s necessary and worth the extra time to understand where people are at and thoughtfully consider that in your plans to meet together.
3 – Sensitivity to the Conscience.
“Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.” Romans 14:13
Everyone is trying to navigate these times as best as they can, and some have landed places others have not. There are some who are fully convinced they need certain safety precautions at this time in order to preserve their own safety and the safety of their family and others. In light of this, we are called to be sensitive to the conscience of our brothers and sisters in Christ. We should in no way judge others in our group for their position or cause them to go against something they are fully convinced in their mind is the right thing to do (violating their conscience). In these cases, we lay aside our own position and remove any stumbling blocks for our brother or sister in Christ to allow them to meet with a clean conscience. It is our joy as Christians to imitate Christ in laying down our own life for the sake of another.
4 – Wisdom
“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” – James 3:17-18
Once you understand where others in your church are at, you will need much wisdom and creativity in making decisions that benefit everyone around you. There is great flexibility and freedom in how we can can gather in person. We want to ensure we are acting as wisely and as lovingly as we can with the information that we have. We read in proverbs that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Prov 9:10). Wisdom should first be sought out in prayer to the Lord (James 1:5). We ask Him for guidance and allow the Spirit to lead us in godly wisdom and give us hearts that imitate Christ’s selfless love. We also see in Proverbs that wisdom expresses itself as loving others. Being prayerful and thoughtful in how you meet as a group is in itself a way to love those in your group – to hear their voice and act on their behalf.