Note: The following are personal thoughts of Pastor Mills. If you have questions or comments, feel free to reach out directly to him.
What a time to be alive. Over the last year, our world has drastically changed. Millions of people have died from a pandemic. Many are living from fear. Churches around the world have wrestled with some of the most difficult decisions. How grateful I am for a God who is guiding and directing His church and calls us not to live in fear but to trust Him.
Some have asked questions regarding the recent decision by the Lansing Church Sabbath School counsel to require masks during the Sabbath School time. I’m grateful for a church which is asking questions and wrestling with God’s will for our lives.
To help answer some of these questions, I’d like to take a step back and explain the processing that took place at the SS counsel level and led to this decision.
Face masks are not primarily for the wearer (although, depending on the type of mask, there are varying levels of protection). What the mask does do is slow down transmission of viral material through droplets to those who are around. I know this is a debated point, which is why in the worship service we have set-up two services so that members can choose their own level of risk while still worshipping at church.
Sabbath School is different. Lansing has teachers that, either because of personal health risk factors and/or people living with them, need to be extremely cautious. The mask primarily protects those who are around, including the teachers of our classes. If our teachers were in a position where they could take this risk, then this wouldn’t be a problem; however, we have several who cannot. They are not able to come and teach the classes unless those who are in the classes they are teaching are wearing masks. As I’m sure all of us can appreciate, this has created a difficult situation because we don’t have the room, time, or staff for multiple classes.
After much prayer and wrestling, the SS counsel came to the difficult decision that, for the sake of those who are physically weaker in our church family, we ask that all who attend SS classes wear a mask. The exceptions would be young children (cradle roll and kindergarten) who thankfully do not seem to get COVID very seriously or at least transmit it as readily as older children and adults. We do have an adult class (Rod Dunnebecks class) that has made an exception for all who would like to attend without wearing a mask. As we have all learned, these are dynamic decisions. In times of stress, it is important to remain flexibility and understanding.
As I’ve wrestled through this over the last number of months, the discussion in my mind has come down to a larger question – deference. Different experts on all sides have their perspective. That’s not the issue. To me, the question is, am I willing to put aside my personal preference for the sake of a weaker brother or sister? It seems to me that this is what Paul is appealing to in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23.
For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; 20 and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; 22 to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. 23 Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.1 Corinthians 9:19-23
It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak.Romans 14:21
And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?1 Corinthians 8:11
It’s true, I can choose to not wear a mask. Is that what Christ would do? Would Paul?
These are questions that I think each of us need to be fully persuaded in our own minds. I understand that these are extremely difficult times with situations that seem to present no good option. However, I also believe that God is growing us and preparing us for the most important days in front of us. Jesus IS coming soon. The gospel IS going to the world!