Christians are making many choices right now, just like the rest of society. Many are experiencing decision fatigue from the new decisions facing them – which expert do I believe? Which practices will best keep me and my family safe? Am I acting by faith, fear, or wisdom? Adding to the challenge is that many believers who agree on the most important things in life and theology may find themselves disagreeing with their brothers and sisters on wisdom issues.
- Should we wear masks whenever we are outside?
- Should we resume services immediately?
- Should we shake hands and hug when we reunite with fellow believers?
- Is refraining from public worship an act of love for our neighbors or a lack of faith in God?
- Will the human cost of economic collapse or the death caused directly by Covid-19 be worse and how should that shape government policy?
- How do we interpret the medical data provided by different health practitioners that appears to contradict at times?
Romans 14 places guardrails that guide our response to one another in matters of conscience. After writing in 13:9 that all the commands are summed up in the one command to love your neighbor as yourself, we see that applied to various disagreements. Some believers are convinced that certain foods should be avoided and certain days should be celebrated. Others disagree and want to treat every day alike. What should believers do?
Romans 14:3-5 The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him. 4 Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. 5 One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind.
In short, don’t judge one another before the Lord on debatable matters. Many Covid-19 issues are debatable in good conscience. We must recognize that different, well-intentioned, faithful believers will arrive at different conclusions from each other. We must guard against the tendency to judge those who do/don’t wear a mask or do/don’t gather for corporate worship.
At some point in the future we will look back on this period with greater clarity. Some steps may be seen as obvious overreactions. Some measures may be seen as not going far enough. But we aren’t at that future point right now. Because of our limited understanding as finite creatures, we need to show charity toward those who make different decisions than our own. We need to be comfortable with someone preferring not to shake our hand or come over for dinner, without assuming they are rude, fearful, or uninformed. In short, we need to extend a lot of grace toward people who may take a different path to reengaging than we are.