How to Tell Your Pastor His Position on Masks Makes Him the Weaker Brother
Could you help me think through my situation at church? Our elders are requiring us to wear masks in the building due to the state requiring it and due to their understanding of Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2.
I disagree with their understanding. Do you have any information about interpreting that passage? I understand the passages to be telling us the government’s role is to “punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.”
“Good” needs to be based on God’s standards, not arbitrary rules. If a government begins acting tyrannically, it may sometimes be my duty to disobey.
My church elders do not seem to have a place for disobeying arbitrary and unjust commands from the government. How should I interact with them on this topic?
Some of your options seem to be:
- Ignore the issue
- Express your concern privately to the elders
- Express your concern to others in the church
- Attend a different church for awhile
First Ask: What’s True and Right?
If I were a pastor I would be telling people to do whatever they are comfortable with, with the understanding that the state has no authority on this matter and some people in the church — but probably not most of them — will wear masks.
This understanding is based on the doctrine of the lesser magistrate. We have more information on that in our video Gun Rights & 1776 vs. The Christian Pansies.
Also see Jon Harris’ oustanding interview of Matt Trewhella: The Doctrine of Lesser Magistrate with Matt Trewhella.
All Authority Is From God — and Limited by God’s Standards
Each authority figure in society has only the authority given to them by God. No one has the authority to require healthy people to wear masks in public — certainly not for months or years.
If the top authorities try to do wrong or if they try to impose senseless requirements on the people under their power, the middle authorities (mayors, police, judges, and private citizens and the leaders of their organizations — including pastors) have the God-given authority to not consent and then to go on living as they would.
The number of pastors in this country who understand this is very small. Sadly, the number of pastors in this country who should be pastors is also very, very small.
That’s not to say I would advise making a big deal about a single error about masks, unless you consider this to be the time to address some other more long-term errors too.
The mask trend will end and people will forget it happened (hopefully). The more important concern is whether your church is teaching rightly on fundamentals and whether you can, in good conscience, agree to disagree about a matter that is somewhat important, but new and confusing to most pastors.
A word of caution: A pastor who cannot resist the state’s unjust impositions now is likely never going to.
I would be most concerned about the weekly meeting happening, about the soundness of the teaching, and about the observation of the Lord’s supper — and about the pastor’s understanding that he will at some point be called upon to resist, even if it means risking arrest.
If you have those things, then perhaps you, the stronger brother, can overlook an annoying weakness and error like this from the elders for a limited time.
If you do decide to overlook the error, do make sure your elders or your pastor know that his congregants see him as playing the part of the weaker brother in this instance.
And make sure he knows that your support for him is the support you are temporarily willing to give to a leader who is acting like they are unprepared for a challenge simply because the challenge is new and leader is confused.
Make sure the elders and the pastor know that when more obvious persecution comes — and it will come — they should be prepared to find their spines.
Christians Can Win the Culture War.
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