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We have learned something about viruses during the COVID-19 pandemic--more than we wanted to know! To help prevent the spread we were told to wear a mask and maintain our distance from others.

But, I want us to have a Gospel contagion! We need the mission to go viral in our churches, communities, county, and country--eventually being a grace pandemic to infect the planet!

To do so, we need to drop the masks. The Greek word translated "hypocrite," comes from the theater and meant, "to wear the mask." Actors and actresses in the first century would have been your friends and neighbors. It was hard for you to identify with the character if you knew them as Jim Bob or Mary Sue. Therefore, they would wear a mask to hide who they truly were. You have likely seen the two masks--one smiling and one frowning--as a symbol of the theater.

How many church folks put on a Christian performance on Sunday, acting like they have it altogether? But, unlike the Greek stage, our neighbors, family, friends, and fellow workers are not fooled. Those closest to us are well aware of who is behind the mask. I do not think that lost people are upset that we don't have our act together, but that we act like we do. Hypocrites are not messed up folks, but messed up folks pretending to be perfect. Our world needs grace. We need grace. Nobody needs it more than I do. What would happen on this Sunday, if we just stop covering up our sin in pride and confessed our sin with humility? There would be an epidemic of grace, and who knows how many might be infected!

Beyond dropping the masks, we must end social distancing! It is time for the family to unite in love, draw close to God and one another, and experience the joy of fellowship. I understand there was a time when we were to stay out of crowds, stop hand-shaking and neck-hugging--a period when we watched sermons online. That time needs to be over! Church is not about sitting at home in your PJs sipping lattes, but about singing TOGETHER, praying TOGETHER, studying the Word TOGETHER, observing the ordinances TOGETHER! Man was not made to be alone. Humans are hard-wired for connection. That is why people love to pack out sports arenas, jam into the stands for a NASCAR race, sit in the heat with thousands

to watch bands play at a music festival. Human touch, compassion, and support are fundamental desires we have--and for a long time it has been denied by government and medical edict.

What would happen if that pent-up longing found a gathering place where 1 Corinthians 13 love was offered? Our worship services could well go viral--the kind of contagious Christianity that drew sinners to Christ and then to His body, the church. All the forces of hell could not stop that Gospel pandemic! I'm so thankful that I was infected at age 18, and it has become a chronic condition!

Yours for the Gospel,

Dennis Thurman, AMS

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