A DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT by Pastor Phil
I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God—even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.
1 Corinthians 10:23-24, 31-33
Are you familiar with these verses? I’ve been thinking a lot about them lately. Paul is dealing with questions about eating food offered to idols which doesn’t relate to our world today, but in the discussion, Paul has offered principles that can guide us in making decisions and honoring Jesus in the situations we face in today’s world.
I want to point out the principles and then share how the church staff have been endeavoring to apply them as an illustration of how we can allow God’s word to be a living word that transforms our lives and world, and gives God glory.
Principle 1: The Lost Take Priority Over the Found
“I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.” The emphasis here is on our witness to non-believing neighbors. This is the foundational principle. We do NOT seek what is best for us—what will make us happiest, make us most comfortable. Instead, we seek the good of others, especially those who are not believers. We do not do things that will cause others to stumble on their way to discovering Jesus. We do not give them reasons to discount our message because our actions don’t match our message of loving our neighbor as ourselves. This is in line with Jesus’ own example and teaching when he said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mark 2:17
Principle 2: Our Witness Takes Priority Over Our Rights
“‘I have the right to do anything,’…but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’—but not everything is constructive.” We may have the “right” to do something, but that does not mean it’s wise, beneficial or constructive. And the measurement for beneficial and constructive is not if it’s beneficial to ourselves, but if it's beneficial to others “so they may be saved.”
Principle 3: “Do It All for the Glory of God”
It is about God’s glory, not personal glory. And what gives God glory is being a witness, living up to the message that Jesus loves others so much that he gave up his rights and sacrificed his life for them.
So, how are we seeking to apply these principles as a church?
Some have been asking why we continue to not have in person worship services, especially now that the Supreme Court has declared we have the right to meet. This is where these principles come into play. We have the right, but is it beneficial and constructive, and most importantly, is it a good witness?
Up until now, we have determined it is not wise to reopen. Our congregation is vulnerable to not only catching the virus, but experiencing the worst of its results. We have recently seen within our own church family how easy it is to catch the virus, even when being cautious. We know not meeting is taking its toll on you. It's taking a toll on us your pastors. However, we love you too much to risk your life and health and we would be devastated if, by coming to church, you were to become infected and suffer.
Just as important is our witness to our neighbors. The state and county, based on the advice of health experts who have dedicated their entire lives studying disease, along with tens of thousands of doctors and nurses, have begged people not to gather because, every time they do, infections go up, hospitals get filled, doctors and nurses get more exhausted, and people die. We have decided to honor their wisdom and their sacrifice by not meeting. We feel we would be a poor witness to the community if we were to put them at risk by choosing to meet, increasing the potential for spreading the virus. We want our neighbors to know that we love them enough to sacrifice our right to gather. Our witness takes priority over our rights.
So, that is how we are seeking to apply God’s word to this situation. The same principles apply to so many areas of our lives. To apply them, ask yourself:
- Is this beneficial and constructive for others?
- Will this be a good witness and draw people towards Christ?
- Does this give God glory?
The good news, though, is that given the current downward trends in infection rates and changes in state recommendations, we believe we can safely reopen on Sunday, February 28th! This is tentative, and can change depending on trends, but for now we are planning to see you in person in just a few weeks.