I sat in the house of God today for the first time since mid-March. Praise the Lord! It was a special service, finally having our cooperate body inside in one place. Worshipping. Praising. Praying. Listening to the Word. It was wonderful.
For some of you in certain enviable states, your churches never closed their doors. Praise the Lord for men and women who lead and are not ruled by fear. In my state, we were limited to gatherings no bigger than 10 for quite a while, so our governor will say he never closed churches officially but as a matter of practicality he did. A few weeks ago, the state started a phased lifting of the gathering restrictions.
I am not here to discuss local politics. Walking into my church today we were required to wear a mask, social distance (by a portion of the chairs being removed), and follow a traffic flow of in one door and out another. These decisions belonged to our elders, and as God’s called shepherds for the local flock, I complied. Just like I comply with the mask ordinance from my employer. You see, as a Christian, I believe in following God’s established lines of authority. If you have read any of my previous articles, you will know that.
I freely admit that I have been one of the people calling the Corona Virus/ COVID19 the shamdemic or plannedemic from the start. I believe the virus is real and dangerous for certain groups (elderly, sick), but the reaction has been massively overblown- exaggerated and magnified to the point of ridiculousness.
I am one of those people who refuses to go into stores with a mask requirement if I can get the product somewhere else. I have not socially distanced in my personal life a single time. In fact, I live in one “hot zone” and vacationed this summer in another without incident. Throughout the shutdown, my wife and I hosted gatherings of friends and family at least weekly to maintain fellowship and fight the isolation. We broke no laws.
I know. I know. Some of you have anger boiling up inside you at my words. How dare I? Right. But I refuse to live in fear because my God reigns over sickness. In fact, the Bible states it this way: “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth” (Philippians 2:9-10, NIV). Jesus’ name is greater than Corona Virus or COVID or ‘The Rona’ or whatever other name you can give the faceless boogeyman.
It seems my life is split with two sets of rules about the virus: those when I interact with society at large (work, church, and commerce) and what I do privately. In one I follow established authority, and in the other, I live in freedom from fear that my Lord promised, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free” (Galatians 5:1, NIV). Both are really living under God’s authority.
But what happens when God’s authority conflicts with man’s? The easy answer is Jesus addressed this subject directly. “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s” (Matthew 22:21, NIV). If God claims something in his Word, then it is His. If He does not speak to it or delegates it, then it is Caesar’s (the government).
You might be thinking ‘that is great, but why are you talking about it in this article?’ Well, I have had the luxury of my public life and personal views about Corona being able to stay in their neat, little places. But Christians might not have noticed the legal earthquake from Friday, July 24, 2020, that is going to bring God’s authority directly into conflict with Ceasar’s. We as individual Christians have to decide whether we will follow our Lord or follow men?
The Supreme Court ruled that Nevada churches cannot have more than 50 people inside their buildings (regardless if the capacity is thousands). However, they said casinos and all business can be at 50% capacity (regardless if capacity is in the thousands). At first, it sounds like a question of floor space and percentages, a real ‘fly-under-the-radar’/snoozer type decision. But the Supreme Court is federal, so every state can now make the same restrictions. Caesar’s palace can have 2050 people (half of the 4100 limit) seven days a week for 24 hours a day, but Central Christian Church in Henderson, Nevada with a membership of 21,055 can have no more than 50. Every IHOP in Nevada can have more people inside than the largest church.
You might be thinking, ‘it is okay, the COVID pandemic will end and things will go back to normal.’ Maybe. But the Supreme Court just told ever governor that it is okay to limit churches (1stAmendment anyone?) while allowing commerce, sports, gatherings, protests, and even riots to continue if the governor thinks they have a good reason. What’s a good reason? COVID? Next flu season? Maybe holiday weekends? What about when too many pastors are against the governor’s favorite public policy? Or for the governor’s opponent? Pretty far fetched right? Except that you can walk into the Bellagio with several thousand people right now, but those same people cannot walk into Nevada’s largest church together.
Sure, I know that it will take a few more court decisions to really put the Church squarely in opposition to the government, but we have seen this before. In 1972, the Supreme Court rendered the Roe vs. Wade decision legalizing abortions in a limited context. A few dozen state laws and nearly as many cases through the courts culminated in 1992’s Casey vs. Planned Parenthood Supreme Court decision which made abortion on demand legalized birth control in any case the mother wants- twenty years from beginning to end.
Many of you live in states with God-fearing governors or state legislatures that will move to enact laws in response to the Supreme Court. Good. Just like many governors and legislatures were appalled at the barbaric Roe vs. Wade decision in 1972. The main difference is that if a person or couple is opposed to abortion, they don’t ever have to get one. If your future governor (not necessarily the guy or gal in the chair now) decides to declare an emergency and shut down your church, the Supreme Court is going to back them regardless of past laws of the legislature. I mean, come on, they just ignored the 1st(freedom of religion, speech, and assembly), 5th(due process), and 14th(equal protection under the law) amendments as if they were not established parts of the Constitution.
I am not trying to scare you. But you need to be ready. I know many patriotic Christians. But ultimately God did not call you to be a good American. Your citizenship is in Heaven. You belong to the Kingdom of God. You must obey earthly authorities when they do not conflict with God, but when something belongs to God (like the assembling of his people- Hebrews 10:25), you must stand up for it. The day to stand up and be counted for the Kingdom of God in America is drawing near. But do not worry. In the end, all nations, empires, and countries will one day give way to the kingdom. Therein lies a great part of our hope. “Then the sovereignty, power, and greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven will be handed over to the saints, the people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey” (Daniel 7:27, NIV).