Because I publicly shared my opinion about how Grace Community Church decided to gather on July 26th, I need to share a couple of follow-up thoughts.
First, there is a colossal difference between carelessly disregarding recommended or mandated safety measures and developing a firm conviction in a clear conscience before God that gathering without adhering to said measures is the most right thing to do. I wrote in one of my tweets that GCC’s gathering was careless and likely the fruit of careless leadership. I was wrong to assume this, much less say it publicly. I sincerely apologize to GCC’s eldership and congregation for making this accusation.
Being far removed from Grace Community Church, I cannot know whether or not their elders’ decision to gather as they did was careless. Based on John MacArthur’s long track record of faithfulness, I think there’s more reason than not to believe this decision was made with great care, in a good conscience, and out of a genuine desire to please God. I am in no place to pass judgment on my brothers for what they approve (Romans 14:2-12). Yet I did. I am sorry.
Second, I still disagree with GCC’s decision to gather as they did. I believe mass indoor gatherings where most attenders are not distancing poses a threat—to the health of the attenders, to the health of the surrounding community in which the attenders live, and to the witness of churches in America. I believe that at this stage in the pandemic there is more reason than not to comply with recommended or mandated safety measures. I believe that refusing to do so at this time may communicate a disposition of pride and selfishness to much of the watching world—a disposition that says, “We care more about gathering how we want to gather than we do the safety of our neighbors.”
And it’s okay for me to charitably voice my opinion. It’s okay for you to charitably voice yours! Though Romans 14 commands us to not pass judgment on one another when it comes to matters of conscience or to cause one another to stumble in the exercising of our freedoms, it does not command us always to keep our opinions to ourselves. Sometimes we might need to. If we’re hot-tempered or in a fragile state of mind, or if the other party is in a fragile state and has a conscience that will be easily wounded, it’s probably best to keep our mouths shut. But if we’re able, we can charitably express our opinions and gently persuade others toward what we believe is wisest. I’d actually argue that we need to do this, because our consciences don’t always operate correctly and bring us to the best conclusions. They often need to be calibrated so as to be more in sync with what is truly good and wise in the sight of God.
One means through which this calibration can occur is through respectful dialogue between believers who have differing opinions about a matter. When I share my opinion about how believers should behave in regards to covid-related issues, I do so in hopes that those with different opinions would consider what I’m saying and be persuaded toward the position I think is right. Likewise, when they share their opinions, they are likely trying to persuade me toward the position they think is right. It is good for us to gently nudge one another toward what we believe is most pleasing in the sight of God when in matters on which the Bible doesn’t give a clear command. Hopefully what happens in this process is that we all humble ourselves, sincerely listen to one another, and then seek wisdom through the Word of God and prayer. Hopefully we all come out on the other side with minds that are more in sync with the mind of God. “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” – Proverbs 27:17.
That’s all I really have to say about this for now. I thank God for the grace he continues to show all who are in Christ. We stumble in so many ways. At least I do. Even when my intentions are good, I often sin in how I communicate my thoughts and how I treat others in God’s household. I pray the Spirit of God would fill me and help me to love my brothers and sisters better than I often do. May I better embody the gentleness of the Lord Jesus as I seek to persuade others toward what I think is good.