We all know that COVID-19 is changing everything that we do. Even the most basic of human functions, like eating, are changing because of COVID. The experience of going to a restaurant has changed in the last 12 months because of this virus.
Considering something as basic as eating has been altered, we could also assume that other areas of life are impacted by COVID-19. As Christians, the church is not exempt from these changes. Churches are having to adjust to the reality of the virus and the impact it is having on our communities of faith. In many ways these changes are unavoidable, but we should be careful to protect the most important elements of the Christian life; especially our gathering and commitment to one another in the context of the local church. I’d like to remind us of some important features about Sunday that we must remain committed to, especially during the pandemic.
Principle Over Practice. First, I want to emphasize the importance of holding on to our principles while being flexible with the manifestation of those principles. For example, we believe that it is important for us to encourage one another when we gather (Heb 10:24–27). Still, the practice of encouraging one another can take many different forms. Especially in light of the pandemic, we must realize that the principle can be practiced with or without masks and with or without social distancing.
This is the danger of the pandemic and our convictions. We must have the maturity to hold on to the principle while understanding the variances of practices. When we exchange practices for principles we turn into legalists. Many churches are struggling with this very concept. That is why it is important for churches to keep talking about these matters and for church leaders to emphasize biblical principles and call for church members to practice humility.
Now, here are a few basic truths about Sunday that we need to maintain. Embracing these truths
#1: Sunday Belongs to the Lord. It might seem obvious, but I’m surprised how often it is overlooked. Remember, Sunday is called, “the Lord’s Day” or in other words, the day that belongs to the Lord (Rev 1:10). Jesus, as the Lord and Head of the church, owns Sunday and has identified it as the day we devote ourselves to gathering together to worship Him.
In addition to Sunday serving as God’s chosen day for worship, He also commands for us what we are supposed to do in order to offer pleasing worship to Him. He commands us to practice word-centered worship. We sing, read, pray, and study Scripture. In addition, we also “see” Scripture when we practice the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Table. God is not only concerned that we worship, but how we worship.
The Lord’s Day does not belong to sports leagues, brunches, or vacations. Rather, the Lord’s Day belongs to Him and as His servants we are called to observe it as He has commanded.
#2: Sunday is the First Day of the Week. When we look at the calendar, we should realize that Sunday is the first day of the week (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor 16:1). It is not part of the weekend. It actually starts the calendar week. This has great significance in the life of the Christian.
First, as the first day, it gives us the opportunity to display that the Lord is our priority. Christians choose to make worship the first activity of the week. It is at the top of our priority list. Second, as the first day, it sets the tone for all the days that follow. Our worship of God informs how we behave in the workplace, spend time with our family, and rest from our labors on Saturday.
#3: Strength through Service. We should also remember that part of Sunday worship is our service for Him and His people. Many people want to view Sunday as a day of rest, almost as if God wants us to be passive participants where we are on the receiving end of other people’s service. In many instances, contemporary Christianity has led us to believe that we are recipients of the professionalized or paid ministers or staff.
Instead, when we read the Bible we find that Sunday is a day when all Christians gather to employ their spiritual gifts (Heb 10:23–25). This means, in one sense, Christians should often feel physically tired at the end of Sunday. But being physically tired doesn’t mean that Sunday is a drain for the rest of the week. Rather, it strengthens us to live the Christian life. I would compare it to exercise. Oftentimes a jog can be tiring, but the net gain in the Christian’s life is endurance, strength, vitality. Sometimes a jog today can help keep us going throughout the week. In this sense, spending the energy to serve others gives us strength and ability to live for God and others throughout the week.
These are three simple principles about Sunday that every Christian should embrace. Especially during these COVID-19 times we should be vigilant to keep the main thing at the center and to value what we have in the local church.