As some of you may have heard a pastor in Alberta has been arrested for refusing to comply with some of the health guidelines. The response to this event, as is increasingly so over the last while, has been to debate if it was “right” or not.
But what if this is an unhelpful question? What if this is the “wrong” way to respond when confronted with this story?
I do not know this pastor; I have not attended Grace Life in Edmonton. I have read the public statements they have released and listened to some of the recorded messages- all of which gave me pause. I do not think this pastor, nor his conclusions, are right- to suggest that he is an innocent victim, and all pastors should join in this same crusade, would be foolish.
However, I do think what this pastor and church has done, might be good. Grace Life does not conspire that COVID-19 does not exist; they have in several ways taken their own initiative to work against the spread of the virus. Yet, they have also seen firsthand the harm and real damage (including a death of one of their members) that the health restrictions have caused. On this matter, I can not help but see the good.
One of the biggest failures of Christian communities in this pandemic is to create a response that suggests loving our neighbour is limited only to those who are at risk from the virus. What about love for those who are at greater risk and experiencing greater suffering at the hands of the restrictions? Are they not our neighbours as well? Turning a blind eye to the suffering to this other group of vulnerable people is not justified by the “right” actions of following protocol.
When we reduce our response to whether this pastor was right or wrong, we are left to divide up into camps of either condemning him or following in his footsteps. Instead, if we were to investigate where the good exists in this scenario, it might help us to avoid the divisive nature of the either-or conversation. Better yet, it might help us grow in finding ways to do things better. And I hope we all could agree that there must be a way to do this better. In fact, maybe, there is a way of doing lots of things better.
What if seeking good was our core concern to so much of what has caused turmoil this past year? The protesters in Black Lives Matter were not right in causing violence and destruction, but it was good to bring light to the injustice caused by ignorance and hatred. Instead of immediately determining the right and wrong in that scenario, what if we looked for the good and found ways to grow and do better?
What if we determined good leadership by valuing good rather than exclusively right? How might this have changed the entire landscape of political leadership (in all places and on all levels) in recent years?
How would our churches change? What would happen to the pervasiveness of scandal and hypocrisy if we valued leaders and pastors that championed love- even over validation in being right?
How would this change our own personal faith journey? What would it be like to seek the better of presence with a good God who prizes the goodness of love, over seeking justification in being right?
Assessing who is right and who is wrong- in this scenario and in many scenarios- only leads to division and the stagnation of justification. Let us find good and do better.
Meet the Pastor
Pastor Heather and her family have been a part of the Cold Lake Community since December 2006 and she has been the pastor at Community Baptist Church since September 2017.