It has been a while since I wrote an article. I have spent the last few months writing with my son on our fantasy novel (that has had several working titles)- it is a Christian allegory set in a Lord of the Rings or Wheel of Time style world, but that is not the subject of this post. I have not been able to shake the uneasy feeling that the Church (as a whole) is missing what God has for us. There is a calling, and corporately we have checked out, if not rejected it. I have thought a lot about sending this post into Kingdom Winds.
On Sunday, March 15th, many of us sat in churches and listened to our pastors tell us the plan for closures in the wake of the unknowns associated with COVID19 (the Corona Virus). Many of them quoted the scripture, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (Romans 13:1, ESV). And I have heard several versions since that moment where ‘church people’ and pastors say we must honor the various governors’ orders because they are the authorities set up by God. Granted, we are to honor authority, but this verse is being misused.
What I am not sure of is this. Are these people being disingenuous on purpose because of fear or another reason, or do they really not know their Bibles? I have held my tongue (except for a couple of posts on Facebook) in an attempt to honor these church leaders as they organized for a response. Sometimes people need a moment to think and pray, and I respect that their responses should be wise. But nothing changed. They (almost all) have meekly gone along with the house arrest/ shutdowns of the churches while claiming submission to the authorities.
Apart from all the Constitutional arguments, which we can use in court just like Paul used his Roman citizenship to his advantage, there are solid Biblical reasons why we should NEVER HAVE CLOSED for a single service and should reopen immediately- regardless of the worldly consequences. Speaking on governmental versus Heavenly authority, “Jesus said to them, ‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ And they marveled at him” (Mark 12:17 ESV). Put simply, Jesus said to honor both authorities. So, the only relevant question is ‘how can we tell what belongs to God and what belongs to Caesar’ (our governors).
The simple and obvious answer is that if God gave a command about it, then it belongs to him. Everything else belongs to the different levels of authority he has established. Think of it as God gave the ‘Big Picture’ parameters, and the ‘day to day operations’ fall to the current rulers. The Bible says clearly “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing . . .” (Hebrews 10:25, NIV). God commands us to meet together. Simple. We are not to give that up. Period. The command is not ambiguous.
I know some of you are going to say you have not given up meeting together because you have some kind of live stream going. But, let’s all be clear about Bible translation and meaning. The writer of Hebrews meant face to face corporate worship. I agree live streams are great ways to reach people that many churches do anyway (and should), but a live stream is completely immaterial to the command in Hebrews. The author meant a face to face meeting of corporate worship and Word.
I have heard arguments about we must “love our neighbors” by canceling service or some logic about we want to show the world that we care about their health. None of these arguments matter because “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). God does not change his standards or his Word based on the sensibilities of a culture or even what is going on in terms of current events. God said simply, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15 ESV). He also said, “. . . You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39 ESV). Loving God and following His commands comes before our neighbors. I didn’t write it folks, but I am telling you what it says, plainly.
Many arguments I have heard are basically popularity based like decisions are being made from a marketing perspective. But Jesus said, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you . . . ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ They persecuted me, they will also persecute you . . .” (John 15: 18, 20 ESV). The Bible also says, “. . . Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:5 ESV). You have a basic decision in the assembling of the churches, will you fear God or fear man? Do you want to be God’s enemy, so the neighborhood around your church will think well of you?
One of the saddest things I saw across this nation is a handful of pastors defied the orders and were fined and arrested- that is not the sad part. The heartbreaking part was the other pastors and church people condemning them when they should have been standing beside them in line to get their own fine or receive their own set of handcuffs. Can you imagine the witness if only 10% of us had stood up and answered our Lord’s call in this? Or even 1%? Instead the American Christian church has rendered unto Caesar what belongs to God and refused to stand with our brothers and sisters.
Some of you will say that God told you to cancel services and go online. No, He did not tell you to violate his Word and forsake the assembly. If you are hearing a voice telling you to defy the Bible, that is not God’s voice, brother.
Peace be with you all.
Featured Image by Anna Gru