Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." To the contrary, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. - Romans 12:14-21 (ESV)
I know we sometimes play lip service to actual instruction within the bible, but every word is meant to be taken as God speaking directly to us. The key verses today were under the heading in my bible as "marks of a true Christian." You see God has a plan beloved and the church is integral for the success of that plan. We are supposed to be a shining city on a hill that the unsaved can turn to when their lives have turned to chaos and they see the peace with which we operate. Peace believers should have towards each other and peace towards those on the outside of salvation looking in. When they see us bless those that seem to persecute us. That we do not curse people who declare themselves our enemy. That we live in harmony and as far as we go, in our personal lives, we strive to be at peace with all. That we leave our perceived sense of retribution for the Lord. That we feed the hungry and give drink to the thirsty, even if they are not our friends. Even if they would spend a lifetime shouting at the top of their lungs against what we believe. That we do not let evil overcome us but rather overcome evil with good. I often tell the story of two case managers who worked for me. One was a bible carrying, Jesus in your face Christian and let's just say that the other was not. The unbeliever tried to make life miserable for the Christian, even filing multiple complaints with Human Resources because proselytization was not allowed in the contract governing our work. This went on for over a year and all the Christian did was smile, share Christ and pray for her. Sure enough, when things went upside down in the life of the unbeliever she turned to her Christian counterpart and was led to Christ through the sharing of the gospel. She remains committed to Christ to this day. That is the embodiment of the key verses today.
Now, let's get into the way-back machine to 2020 when COVID first hit the United States. There were political factions that decided to push back against anything the government did, calling it "overreach." Incompetently armed without science, these grifters found a profitable venue in being against the government. Unfortunately, this was largely led by the Republican Party that controls the NAR, dominionist apostate church. So soon, you saw pastors rebelling, which violates scripture in multiple places. The first big public name was Rodney Howard Browne, yes that one. Despite decades of false teaching including the claim that he was the "Holy Ghost Bartender" the apostate church flocked to Brown. Soon there were more and more culture warriors, seemingly dismissing the key verses for a chance to stand with the rebels. Behind the scenes and underreported, people started dying. Entire churches became ill and unless you had good media control, your story would leak out. Even bigger names like Jack Gibbs and John MacArthur decided to flaunt the laws of their states and reopen their doors, often misapplying the "not forsaking the brethren" scriptures. Who knows how many people have died as a result of playing politics by men who were supposed to tend to their sheep? Spoiler alert - Jesus knows.
What came along with this defiance was an open bravado exhibited by the leaders of these churches. They were not content to merely violate the law but brag about doing so. I remember Pastor Loren Sandford bragging that despite their flaunting and refusal to mask or socially distance that "no one was sick in his church. A couple of weeks later the ENTIRE church had COVID, and Pastor Sandford would die from it. Churches in California were the most rebellious because their governor was a hated Democrat and their methods of combatting the pandemic grated against many. As with many other states, church services were mandated to cease or proceed with limitations because the actions of traditional church services are a literal petri dish for the spread of the virus. Now, many churches simply worked with their local officials to provide some outdoor services, provided online services, and still supported their communities in such a dark time of need. Unfortunately, most churches were built under the purpose driven model that required in person tithing to survive. The purpose driven model had created swaths of cult of personality preachers whose only role was preaching in a Sunday service and without it, they simply did not know what to do. One such California Church was Calvary Christian Fellowship in San Jose, pastored by Mike McClure. During the pandemic, McClure and CCF were your stereotypic tough guys brazenly flaunting the law and feeding their sheep into the COVID woodchipper, before and after vaccines were developed. Back in December of 2020, after being held in contempt for violating a court order to stop hold unmasked services, McClure had the following inane comments:
"I'm not a policeman, I'm a pastor, I respect the judge, I understand what the laws are, but there's a bigger law." - Pastor Mike McClure
"I'm not worried so much about the things you're worried about. More as much about what God's worried about. God's worried about your heart and your life and your eternity more than a mask because those are debatable things, right?" - Pastor Mike McClure