The Weekly Epistle 5/27/20

“If you board the wrong train, it is no use running along the corridor in the other direction.” 
Ever find yourself on the wrong train going in the opposite direction of your intended destination?  I have.  There is a sense of panic and helplessness.  That feeling just might describe many, right now, in the face of this pandemic.  
That quote by Bonhoeffer was his reply when asked whether he shouldn’t join the German Christians in order to work against them from within. He said he couldn’t.  Bonhoeffer was a man who was willing to take a stand and face the consequences in a very significant time in world history in the 40’s as an evil German dictator waged his hate on the Jewish people.  
It got me thinking.  There is a time to speak up and time to shut up, Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 3.  It requires wisdom to know when which response is needed.
This led me to think about our times we are in right now.  As churches that were required to close their doors, the question on the minds of many is, “must we comply?  Is this a time in which we take a stand against the authorities in order to obey God rather than man” (as it says in Acts 4:19)?
Civil disobedience.  When must we obey God rather the laws of our state or country?  Some pastors believe that to be shut down as we are by the government because of Covid-19, is a case in point for civil disobedience.  
In mid-March, a pastor in Florida, declared before his packed congregation, “I’ve got news for you: This church will never close.”
Two weeks later, he was under arrest.  
I heard that one pastor said, “The church is the last force resisting the Antichrist.  Let us assemble regardless of what anyone says.”  
My comments here are not to be taken as judgment on them.  Are there times when we must obey God rather than men?  Is it when those in authority are not following Biblical principles?  Well, that would go against the teaching of Romans 13:1-7 and I Peter 2:13-17.  Both those passages that speak of submission to authority were written in a day when the Roman government was as corrupt and godless as any other time in history.  And we are told to submit to those in authority.  So civil disobedience can’t be referring to that.  
For followers of Christ, the only reason for civil disobedience is a deep biblical conviction that obedience to man’s authority would be disobedience to God.  And I know that Hebrews 10 commands us to not forsake the assembly of our brothers and sisters.  But we are also told to love one another.  Is it loving to gather when we can spread the virus to others?  Does religious freedom mean the freedom to risk infecting your fellow believers and neighbors with a deadly virus?  
We are called in Scripture to live in peace with all people if possible.  We are told in Scripture to live as good and godly citizens in the world.  We are told to pray for those in authority so that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.  
We must also consider our testimony.  What will the unbelieving world think about those who make a show of disobeying authority?  Do we help our cause or hurt it when we defy authority by saying, “My only authority is God”?  We must ask, “Is my action bringing glory or embarrassment to the name of Christ”?
Whatever the hidden agenda might be for some politicians around churches shutting down, the government is saying that for the protection and health of our society we should not meet.  And that of course is not only said to churches.  This is for the greater good of society.  This is not persecution of Christianity.  Civil disobedience is not necessary.  If they said, “Churches are to stop preaching Christ or stop worshipping or stop talking about the gospel,” then we obey God rather than men.”
For instance, as your pastor if I was told I could not preach God’s Word, I would have to choose obeying God over that. And if it meant jail time, or fines, or worse, then I also must choose to live with the consequences of that decision.  Same with you, if a law went out that said you were forbidden to speak of God in public or to share God’s Word with others or to tell of the salvation of Jesus, then that would require civil disobedience on your part.  We would have to choose to obey God rather than those in authority if we are commanded to do something directly against God’s Word.  It doesn’t mean we start some revolution or protest with signs on the Whitehouse Lawn or the state capital.  It means we keep on preaching and communicating and spreading the gospel and let the chips fall where they fall.  If we are thrown in jail, then like Paul, we start a jail ministry.  
I leave you with this thought.  We mustn’t ever look to the government to be our savior, but to the Lord Jesus only!  We are people of the cross and must reflect Him in all we do.  Blessings to you, church!
Pastor Brian

Looking Forward

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Living With THE END in View

Book of Revelation

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Wednesdays In The Word
Reopening & Unity
Romans 14

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“A Guide to Joyful Living”
Our summer sermon series in the book of Philippians

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