The supreme example of this truth is found in the Lord Jesus. The Apostle Paul speaks of His sacrifice in his words to the church at Philippi: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death--even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:6-8)
Paul preceeds these words by exhorting the church to: Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Philippians 2:3-4)
As I have watched in recent weeks as a number of churches have defied the directives of our Provincial Health Officer by opening their doors for in-person gatherings, I have to admit such actions are troublesome to me. While the Bible does allow for a measure of civil disobedience when the actions of our governing bodies violate the Word of God, the actions of these churches do not, in my opinion, meet this threshold.
In Acts 5:29 Peter declares: We ought to obey God rather than men. His words were in response to a directive to stop preaching the truth about Jesus. Such a directive does violate the Word of God and Peter is right in defying such an order. Our health and government officials are not shutting the doors of churches to oppress them but to protect them and our communties. Communities of faith may be correct in declaring we have a Consitutional right to gather but when does the Constitution trump the Bible. The Word of God is clear, we are to honor those who govern us.
Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.
This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. (Romans 13:1-7)
Interestingly, I have not heard any leader or member in these churches who are taking such a stand, reference this text from the Bible, but rather demands to protect our Constitutional rights. Something in all of this is not aligning for me. Even more troubling is how the church is being viewed. When neighbors and those outside the church use words like 'irresponsible' and 'selfish' to describe the actions of these churches, what does that do for the witness of the church? Every community of faith has been negatively affected by the actions of a few. I cannot help but wonder is this really honorable to our Lord? Our Savior's name had been dragged through the mud and I just cannot see anything honorable in all of this.
Instead I see the church drawn into controversy, strife and division; these things are not of God. The devil in hell must be laughing and the heart of our God must be grieved.
I know the gathering of the church is absolutely fundamental to our faith, but friends we are abiding by these directives to protect one another, to protect our communties and most importantly to honor our Lord. The most-loving, Christ-like way of responding is NOT to gather, to protect the church, our families and the the broader community. At Valley, we will do our part, we will stay on the solution-side and find ways to adapt until we can gather again.
Thank you for doing that which is right and honorable and that which sends a positive message that we care about our communties.
Stay safe and stay connected, until we meet again.