“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times….”
Well, someone already used that line; but if you do not mind me appropriating the opening of A Tale of Two Cities by Dickens, it is certainly still true. So many things have changed; and for my wife and I, one of the hardest to adjust to is wearing a mask. Now, I am not trying to debate their effectiveness. I am a doubter, but I fall on the side that if it reassures a brother, I can put up with it. I truly regret the way masks rob us of seeing faces. I smile a lot, and I love when people smile back. What distresses me is that these masks hide our smiles, muffle our words, and if they have sunglasses on, we cannot even read someone’s eyes. Masks are making us more anonymous than we already were.
During this time, I have been truly saddened to watch people with less than noble motives tell us to do one thing and then not observe those same requirements for themselves and their families. There have been enough governors and health care experts caught without their masks, traveling to their vacation spots after telling us not to, and not social distancing, that I do not need to give you specific examples. Hey, I want to shout to them, “Practice what you preach!” It was when I wanted to shout that at them, that it occurred to me that it may be a needed message for believers today. We can be pretty good at masking the reality of our spiritual life with some superficial words and actions.
It occurs to me that losing church attendance for these months may have exposed an important truth: that for some, church attendance was their entire spiritual walk. When they could not assemble, they had no time in the Word, no time of prayer, perhaps not even a reason to give. Though they may have regularly served in some capacity at their church, with the services now only livestreamed, they had not given thought to continuing to serve and meet needs in some other way. Perhaps I will be perceived as being too harsh, but it is entirely possible that for some, church attendance is a mask they wear to hide that their Christianity is primarily based on being seen, fulfilling an obligation, being satisfied that they did their duty. Even religious things done superficially do not impress the Lord. Remember what is said in I Samuel 16:7,
“But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.”
I am not in any way saying church is not important; I am a rip-snorting, local-church guy. But God looks at the heart, and perhaps their hearts were exposed during this pandemic in a way that revealed the lack of a close, personal communion with the Lord.
I am using this time to examine myself. Do I practice what I preach? Does my walk with God and my commitment to ministry end when church ends and picks up next Sunday; or is it a vital part of who I am and what I do? Is my desire to be fed from His Word a daily habit? Is my practice of prayer seen in and throughout every day? Is it important for me to speak of God to others, to serve my neighbors, to continue to give to His work? I do not want to wear a mask of religious activity. I want it to be real in every way on every day in my life.
Trying to keep it real.