by Eugene Higgins
Mankind is an extremely inventive and resourceful creature. His ability to adapt to difficult situations and make accommodations where necessary are quite remarkable. For example:
- A waterfront restaurant in Europe has set up 5 individual “greenhouses,” outside its main dining room, for socially-distant dining. Each greenhouse is large enough to accommodate up to three diners at a time. (This may give new meaning to the malaprop, “peasant under glass”). To protect the customers, these “cubicles” are only for people who are already living in the same house. To protect the staff, the restaurant is having its waiters wear face shields and gloves and serve food on long wooden planks to maintain a safe distance from diners. The diners, during this first testing stage, were restricted to friends and family of the restaurant. However, reservations for the greenhouses are completely sold out through the end of June. Apparently the city has many citizens suffering from claustrophilia. No word on how the nimble waiters will refill your water glasses (by hose?) or how often.
- From the “you-couldn’t-make-this-stuff-up-if-you-tried” department comes news of a company that has developed a mechanical face mask that would allow the wearer to open and close the mouth in order to eat food without having to remove it (the mask, not the face). The protective gear would be powered by a hand-controlled lever attached to the mask. It almost sounds as though it must be fake news, except the company is a reputable one. Here is the reporter’s description – and I am not making this up – “The slit in the mask appears large enough to fit a fork or other utensil through. However, some handheld foods – like hamburgers or ice cream — may be more complicated to consume while wearing the mask.” Think so? For those of you wishing to stay on the cutting edge of technology, this should be available sometime in the next couple of months.
- At a school in France, each child is confined, while in the schoolyard, to staying inside a square drawn with chalk on the ground. Within this “safe space” the child can jump, hop, play, and dance “together” with fellow students who are at a safe distance away in their own lonely chalk cage. An official added that “the children did at least appear to be taking the strange situation in stride.” (The stride, however, must be limited to the size of the chalk box, n’est-ce pas?)
I will leave you to decide whether these accommodations are amazing or amusing. Generally speaking, accommodations can be very helpful. When one is traveling, it is a comforting thing to know that accommodations are available. The hotel, motel, house, or B&B is “making room” for you – adjusting or adapting to the need you have for a place for the evening. Those who, while on a trip late at night, have had the unpleasant experience of seeing the neon word “NO” lit up in red beside the word “ROOM,” understand how welcome an accommodation can be.
In the Christian realm, there is nothing inherently bad about “accommodations.” As individual believers, we should always be accommodating in the sense of having a sensitive concern for the conscience, convictions, or needs of others. Brother Walter Gustafson has frequently reminded us that Philippians 4:5, (“Let your moderation be known unto all men”), is literally, “Let your sweet reasonableness be known unto all,” (the K. Wuest and Walter G. translation, I believe). Paul was willing to accommodate himself (adjust his actions) if necessary to preserve a fellow believer from stumbling (1 Cor 8:13). One large assembly recently changed the arrangement of its seats and the order of its emblem-passing to accommodate the size of the congregation and the need for easy access to the exits in case of emergencies. Accommodation can be good!
Accommodation can be bad! There is a time when accommodations are worrisome and detrimental. That is because part of the definition of accommodation has to do with “convenience,” settlement, or “compromise.” An accommodation relative to Divine truth may be based on human preference, begotten through rebellious disobedience, and built for selfish convenience. For example, disregarding the Word and will of God, Aaron “accommodated” the people in their demands for a visible “god” to lead them (Ex 32). Bearing in mind that the Hebrew word “Elohim” is a plural word, and that Aaron made only one calf, it is unlikely that Israelites stood before one molten calf and used a plural noun, saying, “These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.” It is far more likely that, using the plural word for the God of Israel, they meant, “This is thy God, [thy Elohim], O Israel …” Aaron, trying to lessen the dreadfulness of what was happening, and give the horrible and heretical thing an acceptable and orthodox twist, said, “Tomorrow is a feast to the LORD.” But his accommodation only made him an accomplice in the atrocity of having made a supposed image of the invisible God, something likely based on things seen in Egypt. How serious can this be? An accommodation of this nature, “willing to content the people,” (Mark 15:15), is what led to Pilate’s ignoring the law and condemning the Lord Jesus to death.
Another glaring example has to do with Jeroboam. You will recall his being given the northern part, called “Israel,” composed of ten tribes, in contrast to the southern kingdom, called Judah, made up of Judah and Benjamin. Even though Simeon’s “lot” was within Judah’s territory, and the priests and Levites fled to Judah, the bulk of the population was still in Jeroboam’s kingdom. The calculating Jeroboam began to think of the dangers involved in his people’s obedience to the Word of God. Specifically, what would happen when they obeyed the Lord and returned to Jerusalem for the feasts or for sacrifice. Realizing how this could weaken his hold and reignite a sense of loyalty in the hearts of his subjects, he cleverly devised an accommodation. They would not need to travel all the way to Jerusalem! Doubling Aaron’s “artistry,” he made not one but two golden calves, placing one in Dan, (the northernmost city in his fiefdom) and one in Bethel in the south (just north of Jerusalem). It was “too much,” too demanding, too costly, too time-consuming to do things God’s way. Jeroboam’s way was demonstrably easier, far more efficient, and measurably less expensive. Nearer, easier, cheaper – what’s not to like? This gave rise to one of the more censorious epithets in scripture, used 11 times. It would be an antonomasia except that God insisted the man’s name, as well as his father’s, be attached to the odious phrase: “Jeroboam the son of Nebat who made Israel to sin.” Aaron’s actions made Israel “to sin” just the once. Jeroboam introduced an accommodation that lasted for decades and led to the nation’s being overwhelmed and absorbed by enemy kingdoms. Jeroboam not only besmirched his name, to perpetuity, but his father’s as well. How serious can this be? An accommodation of this nature is what led to God’s House, centuries later, becoming “a den of thieves,” (Matthew 21:13).
The introduction of the Wuhan virus into the world, the regulations (fair or otherwise) that have been imposed, the concerns (valid or not) of believers and unbelievers – all of this is going to require “accommodations” going forward and will demand the wisdom of Solomon to make changes that still are honoring to God. How will we ensure the safety of the Sunday school children committed to our care? How will we protect older, vulnerable believers among us? How will we assure visitors of their well-being when visiting the places of meeting? These are merely a few of the concerns that will face shepherds as they try to guide the flock through what are (for us) unprecedented times. Are there any guidelines for us as part of the flock they lead? Yes! Here are some important Biblical principles:
Rom 16:17, “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.”
1Co 1:10, “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.”
Heb 13:17, “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.”
1 Peter 5:5, “Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.”
1 Thessalonians 5:21, “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.”
2 Timothy 1:13, “Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.”
Hebrews 10:23, “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for He is faithful that promised).”
We need to keep in mind that each local church is responsible before God for the choices it makes and that the elders within each of those assemblies are the ones who will give account to God for those choices and decisions. The virus has done enough damage to the work of God. Let us each strive to be sure we add not to the hurt and problem but to the healing and peace.
“Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another” (Romans 14:19).