Some responses to COVID-19 require no forgiveness
We need to recognize that there are many people - millions of them, even - who held opposite positions on pandemic mitigation but legitimately were trying to do their best and serve God.
One of the worst long-term consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic is how it has led to so much distrust and division, especially in the Church. Yes, there absolutely were malignant actors who exploited the pandemic to enhance their power or to use as a cudgel to attack political opponents. These people deserve all of the condemnation they get.
But much of the distrust and division was driven by the lack of humility and grace in dealing with people of good will who have different opinions about how best to deal with the virus while minimizing the negative effects of pandemic mitigation policy. People who masked up were "sheep" who were wearing "obedience muzzles" and people who advocated for a less restrictive lockdown measures were treated as heretics and even murderers. Unfortunately, while I respect Doug Wilson and the work he has done for the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, he has also exhibited this mentality with statements like this one:
If God can restore one to ministry who had, with curses, claimed not to have known Christ, He can certainly restore someone who made his congregation wear a stupid mask.
If you need to "forgive" your pastor for asking you to obey the civil magistrate's mask mandate, then you have some things to learn about authority and submission. Government's job is to protect the lives of its population when possible. This includes fighting a virus, especially a brand new virus that we had not seen before and (at least for the first few months of the pandemic) did not know very much about.
As Romans 13 tells us, the civil magistrate's authority comes from God. My church - Trinity Reformed Church in Bloomington, Indiana - asked people to wear masks in worship. They changed our chair setup to have people sit farther away from each other. They also respectfully outlined to the civil magistrate where they would not obey - specifically if the health department instructed us not to sing in worship.
We all learned a lot over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic - experts, government officials, educators, parents and private citizens alike. We know that closing schools had disastrous effects on education, and that children were not particularly vulnerable to the virus. We know that overly aggressive lockdowns led to an increase in deaths of despair.
Mask mandates are not in that category. There is very little harm from asking adults, teenagers and even older children to wear a face covering. Looking back, did mask mandates do much to prevent the spread of a virus where most infections were in private settings? Not really. But mask mandates did not cause the economic harm, depression and death that lockdowns did. To this day, it amazes me that people are still bickering about the inconvenience of wearing masks when lockdowns and quarantine orders literally killed people.
The point here, though, is not to re-litigate all of the public policy surrounding COVID-19. The point is that if we are still impugning the leadership of pastors and churches who were more compliant to mask mandates or more resistant to those policies, we have a real spiritual problem. We need to recognize that there are many people - millions of them, even - who held the opposite position but legitimately were trying to do their best and even serve God in the midst of a terrible time.
If your pastor or church session required masks and you disagreed, do not forgive them. There is nothing to forgive. You disagreed and you should recognize their effort to be faithful. If your pastor or church session refused to require masks and you disagreed, do not forgive them. There is nothing to forgive. You disagreed and you should recognize their effort to be faithful. Not every disagreement is a sign of sin or heresy. Stop being so stubbornly partisan that you see every disagreement as evidence of being outside of God's will.
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