“All Things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,”, but not all things build up. Let no one seek their own good, but the good of their neighbor.” (1 Corinthians 10:23-24)
Before long it seems some changes will come for us. Every state now is taking steps to open up in some way, shape, or form. And though we have many differing opinions about the unfolding plans, we say “Thank you Lord!” for small steps, even small steps back toward life as we knew it before. The word from Governor Pritzker is that we are on track to move from phase 2 to phase 3 of our state re-entry plan on May 29.
Patience will be the virtue for which we pray, as things will unfold in the church slowly, more than we would like. In Phase 3 gatherings are limited to 10 or less, and in phase 4 (a minimum of a month later) gatherings will be limited to 50 or less. It will likely be a while before we share that great joy of all being together again in worship. This we grieve.
Yet we might also see this intentional path as a way of deep caring for one another. Tuesday night on our executive board Zoom call pastor Jen shared that as we move from phase 2 to phase 3 we might do well to reflect on what’s lawful – vs – what’s beneficial. She had to be thinking about the scripture above, where Paul is talking with the early church about dietary laws. As the church becomes full of the world, as gentiles and pagans enter the community, how will kosher laws be kept? What happens when so called “unclean” foods are set before you on someone else’s table?
His answer is that in Christ we are set free to love and serve others. “Let no one seek their own good, but the good of their neighbor.” I woke up early this morning feeling that this is the answer to all our problems in the world, to this pandemic’s relentless hold on humanity, and also to our hopes and opinions for the best way to start back home to life again. It is the Christ move, the God way, the Spirit’s nudging that we might consider the good of others more than what our own rights and privileges are.
As we think about the Church — our hearts are full for our seniors, and for those with underlying medical conditions. We discern what to do thinking about those with depleted immune systems. As a community fully committed to choosing life, we don’t want to worship together in person if it risks the health and life of others. We differentiate between what we’re told we have the right to do and what in fact is right, best, and good for our neighbors. This causes us to have more patience and perspective in the social distance.
Our time will come! And in the meantime chances for small circles of fellowship will soon commence, albeit at a social distance.
As you watch the news, and read the papers, and talk with friends, and form your opinions about what is right to do in the world and in the church, do so as one set free not only from your sins but from the need to cling to your own rights and privilege. Embrace the way of Christ, and consider what is best for your neighbor. And be patient.
Maybe Paul’s word to the church is naive. But maybe not. Maybe this is actually the way to healing and life for all.