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Face Masks and Civil Disobedience

I wanted to share with you something I communicated on Sunday, but our whole church body needs to hear.

Face masks. It is a divisive issue in our world. We cannot let it divide the church.

Since its beginning in Acts 2, the church has struggled with how to respond to civil government. On the one hand you have Jesus going out of his way to pay taxes (Matt. 17, 22) and the Apostle Paul telling us: “Let everyone submit to the governing authorities, since there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are instituted by God. So then, the one who resists the authority is opposing God’s command, and those who oppose it will bring judgment on themselves.” (Romans 13:1–2, CSB).

Then, when Peter and John were arrested and commanded not to preach about Jesus, we read: “Peter and John answered them, “Whether it’s right in the sight of God for us to listen to you rather than to God, you decide; for we are unable to stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.”” (Acts 4:19–20, CSB)

The question for the church has always been, “Where do we draw the line?” When do we comply with laws with which we don’t agree and when do we say enough is enough and engage in civil disobedience? Or, when is it a Romans 13 issue or an Acts 4 issue?

As you know, Governor Abbott has asked all Texans to take part in the struggle against COVID-19 by wearing face masks in public. Candidly, I personally hate the idea and I’m not sure it will work. Nevertheless, as a Christian man, I don’t just submit to the laws I like.

So, we’ve asked that you wear masks to New Life when you attend our Sunday morning service. I will. My family will. Our staff and leadership will. Personally, I will be taking my mask off to sing during worship (and to preach!). But I will be wearing it at all other times.

I have heard from several of you that are upset with my decision. I get it. I’m not sure I “like” the decision, either. But here’s the thing: The Elders of our church have labored in prayer over the decision. It isn’t a knee-jerk response. It isn’t a political response. We think it is a biblical response. And most importantly, it is what God led us to do.

The enemy has done a bang-up job dividing our country. That was easy for him. Now he’s looking to bring division in the church. We know that’s what he is doing, so we must stop him! Because, when it all boils down, the mask controversy isn’t a big deal. It is a Romans 13 issue.

BIG, Acts 4 issues are coming! It doesn’t take a prophetic gift to see that. At that point, we will have to fight. We’ll need to stand together and with one voice declare, “Enough is enough!” If we can’t stick together on masks, then the church is in real trouble down the road.

It is my earnest desire – after you read this email – you never hear me talk about masks again! I want to get back to talking about Jesus…and ONLY Jesus.

As you evaluate this note from me, I’m asking that you pray about this. Don’t just make a decision based on your preferences or your politics or someone’s social media posts. Ask God what your attitude should be, and let him work that out in you. I am doing the same.

I hope to see you Sunday. I’ll be smiling…but you may not see it under my mask!

Pastor Jim

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