June 2020 Newsletter Article

That’s Good, No That’s Bad is a children’s book about a little boy whose family’s trip to the zoo turns into an adventure when he rises into the sky holding onto a balloon and lands into all kinds of escapades with different animals of the zoo. That’s Good, No That’s Bad is also a comedy routine on old TV series Hee Haw.  (That’s Good, No That’s Bad is also a song I’ve never by a group I’d never heard of – Sam the Sham & The Pharaohs.)


That’s Good no that’s bad in some ways could describe the feelings church elders and leaders have as we try to navigate the transition back to where we were pre-covid 19. We’re riding high on the balloon toward getting back together and we say, “that’s good!”   Then we realize, “oh wait – there’s a lot to decide and get settled before we get back together – that’s bad!” 


Then we also realize, “wow – what’s good and what’s bad differs greatly depending on who you talk to or listen to.”   A lot of people have a lot of different opinions about these things, some of those opinions are strongly held.  


So for me as an Elder / Pastor of this church – here’s my primary concern: how do we work through this difficult season and guard the unity of the body as we should?  How do we maintain a God-honoring, Gospel-validating, neighbor-loving witness we are called to have? 


Over the last few days as I’ve have read various articles and observed social media here’s a few things I’ve noticed.  


First, a lot of people (Christians included) seem to have strong convictions about issues related to this pandemic.    There’s nothing necessarily wrong with having convictions.  Convictions are not the issue – but how you hold those convictions can be the issue; or more specifically, how you hold others up to your convictions, or how you treat others according to those convictions.   


Paul had a lot to say in Romans 14 and 15 about strongly held convictions and how they relate to maintaining the unity of the body, about not being divisive, about not passing judgment on those who have different convictions on non-essential matters.  At the end of this passage he writes, May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. Romans 15:5–7  


Your convictions concerning this pandemic should never threaten or damage your relationship with your brothers and sisters in Christ.   


Second, a lot of people (Christians included) seem to have strong confidence about their particular positions or opinions related to this pandemic.  Have you noticed how remarkably confident so many are in their views right now?    I see much confidence, and not much humility.  Every day so called “expert” opinions are changing – and what is classified as essential by some is unnecessary in the opinion of others.  So perhaps a more Christ-like characteristic we could aspire to and exemplify would be humility.   The body of Christ, and the community we live in, will be better served by the church if our confidant stance and confident words are based on Jesus and his glorious gospel rather than the strength of our various positions on this pandemic. 


Third, it’s evident that a lot of people (Christians included) have little patience for those who would differ from them on their convictions and positions.   This has become a prominent characteristic of our national conversation, and we see this in many areas of life.  This global pandemic event is certainly no different.  Opinions are plentiful; strong opinions are prominent -and patience with those holding other positions or opinions is all too rare.  This should not be the case for those who have been on the receiving end of God’s patience.  Forbearance, not impatience, should be the distinguishing mark for us as God’s people.  


Covid-19 has proved itself to be a moving target, an enemy that even the experts acknowledge is elusive.  Personal convictions concerning Covid-19 are not bad – but those convictions must not divide us as brothers and sisters in Christ.  Christ-like humility should be a distinguishing characteristic for the church.  And if we are going to be known for our confidence, let it be our confidence in the sovereign loving care of God and the saving power of his glorious gospel.  Humility and patience help us avoid thinking the worst of people and acknowledges that the other side of a debate is sometimes right, and we are sometimes wrong. 


As we move forward our church is beginning to move back toward some sense of normalcy.  But for the foreseeable future this new normal will be very different from what it was three months ago.  All of us will have different opinions of what this should look like and how we should proceed.  So what Paul urged the Ephesian church is equally urgent for us today: “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. 4:1–3).

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