Let me start by saying that I was one of the ones who early on thought this whole coronavirus thing was nothing more than an overblown media gimmick. And, honestly, who could blame me? Since when have you been able to trust the main-stream media’s hyperbole?
Seriously, when you look at the raw numbers, flu is still killing way more people than this virus. Yet, I guess the real question is how many people would have died if measure had not been made to limit the spread? It’s really anyone’s guess.
But I’m not here to argue about the killing ability of COVID-19. I want to discuss how the responses are affecting our ability to worship.
10 Or Less
I can’t speak for every state and every town, but from what I have been seeing, most state and local governments have made it illegal for people to meet in groups any more than 10. There are some places that make it less than that. But, for the most part, it’s limited to 10 . . . and six feet apart.
Yet, what some are trying to say is that the government has no right to impose this restriction on houses of worship. They claim that what is going on is an attack on our First Amendment rights of free speech, religious liberty, and the right to assemble. But is it, really? I don’t think so.
Look, if our state and local governments were placing more restrictions on churches than other places, then I would be the first to yell “Foul!” However, how can we say that Christians are being targeted when weddings, funerals, birthday parties, ball games, bingo, dance parties, school – you name it – are expected to abide by the same limitations?
It’s not discrimination if everyone is treated equally.
Yet, there are pastors being arrested in their homes. Churches are being threatened with permanent closure. And, we know there are government leaders out there who would like nothing more than to shutter every church in the country. “Social distancing” has become their favorite weapon.
I thank God that here in Georgia we have a God-fearing governor. Gov. Brian Kemp has been very transparent with the purpose for his mandates and has made it abundantly clear that he in no way wants to hinder or infringe upon the people’s right to worship. It’s just that there’s a deadly virus going around right now, and it doesn’t care who it affects, pagan or saint. So, for right now, everyone, not just church people, are going to have to limit their exposure to other people and “shelter at home.”
The whole reason I’m writing this is because there are some church folk, some pastors, who are saying things like: “The government can’t tell us we can’t have church!” They are screaming in protest, claiming the government has no right to impinge on our fundamental right to “forsake not the assembly.”
However, we must also remember that government has a biblical, God-given responsibility, too!
“Let everyone submit to the governing authorities, since there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are instituted by God. So then, the one who resists the authority is opposing God’s command, and those who oppose it will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have its approval. For it is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, because it does not carry the sword for no reason. For it is God’s servant, an avenger that brings wrath on the one who does wrong.” – Romans 13:1-4 CSB
“Submit to every human authority because of the Lord, whether to the emperor as the supreme authority or to governors as those sent out by him to punish those who do what is evil and to praise those who do what is good. For it is God’s will that you silence the ignorance of foolish people by doing good.” – 1 Peter 2:13-15 CSB
So, now is a time when we need to remember each one of us has a role to play. As for government leaders, as long as they are about doing good and ensuring the safety of our citizens, as long as they don’t demand we violate any direct command from God or our consciences, then we need to obey the best we can … to “silence the ignorance of foolish people by doing good.”
Now, when the government gets too big for its britches and starts singling out places of worship (like China is doing), then we’ll have a reason to do more than stream our singing and preaching.
In the meantime, we are reaching more people now than ever before! I’m not complaining about that!