Important COVID-19 Update
WHAT - Licking County at ‘Level 3’ (Masks Now Required During Gatherings)
Because of the reported increase in COVID-19 cases, the Ohio Department of Health recently declared Licking County to be a ‘Level 3’ or ‘Red’ area. This means that, in an effort to slow the spread of the virus, wearing masks in public spaces, especially indoor gatherings, is mandated for anyone age 10 or older.* HCC will abide by these guidelines.
WHY - How Scripture Speaks into This Current Situation
Some people are greatly relieved at the county-wide mask mandate feeling it is overdue. Others are vehemently opposed to the mandate considering it to be an unnecessary overreach.
So, considering the multiple opinions and strong feelings surrounding this mandate, how are we to respond as believers in Christ and as a church family?
The best way to answer that question is to appeal to the guidance provided in God’s Word. A survey of Scripture reveals that believers are generally instructed to obey the law of the land; however, the Bible also reveals that not all government rules are the same. Consider these three categories of government rules found in the Bible and how God’s people responded.
ONE: Government Rules that Do Not Conflict with God’s Rules: If a government establishes a rule that is not in conflict with Bible teachings, followers of Jesus are clearly instructed to follow it.
“For the Lord’s sake, submit to all human authority—whether the king as head of state, or the officials he has appointed.” -1 Peter 2:13-14
“Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So, anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted.” -Romans 13:1-2
TWO: Government Rules that Conflict with God’s Rules: If a government establishes a rule that conflicts with God’s rules, followers of Jesus are to put God’s Law ahead of human law.
For example, when Peter and the other apostles were commanded to stop teaching about Jesus, their response was, “We must obey God rather than human beings!” -Acts 5:29
THREE: Perceived Government Overreach: On occasion a government will institute a rule that does not contradict Scripture, yet it is considered by some believers to be an unreasonable expectation. To some, this mask mandate falls under that category. What are believers to do in this situation?
The closest Bible example to ‘government overreach’ is a rule that was instituted by Rome in the days of Jesus. During that time, if a Roman soldier came upon a Jewish civilian, the soldier, according to a government mandate, could order that person to carry his belongings for one mile. Did many people disagree with that rule? Yes. Was this rule considered to be unreasonable? Absolutely. Did some people comply with this rule in a passive-aggressive manner? Likely.
So, what did Jesus have to say about responding to this ‘unreasonable’ government mandate? He said, “If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles”. -Matthew 5:41”
While we can have opinions about the mask mandate, while we can agree or not agree, while we can hold personal views about the job any politician is doing, there is nothing in the Bible that contradicts or speaks against wearing a mask and/or social distancing.
In light of these things, we ask that starting this Sunday, July 19th, you would wear a mask as we gather for corporate worship or midweek studies. In accordance with the state instructions, we would also ask that any of your children age 10* or older wear a mask when coming to church. In keeping with state instructions, those in the process of officiating the services (on stage) will not be wearing masks.*
If you feel differently about this issue and do not want to wear a mask, we value that opinion, but we would ask two things of you: (1) please take advantage of one of the worship options that does not require wearing a mask, (2) please (politely) direct your complaints about the mandate to those who instituted it and not to organizations or businesses who are simply trying to abide by it.
These are indeed trying times. The enemy will try every which way to divide us. We must NOT allow him a foothold. Let us come together this weekend and lift up a shout of praise masks and all.
*The mandate does not apply to those in the process of officiating a religious service. (https://tinyurl.com/y3l5o24l)
*The order does not apply to children under the age of 10 or any other minor who cannot safely wear a face covering. (https://tinyurl.com/y3l5o24l)