In obeying the orders and requests of President Trump and Governor Kemp to have citizens shelter in place and most organizations remain shut, Evangelical leaders across the state of Georgia have closed churches. The leaders at First Christian Mableton have willingly suspended our in-person worship services as well. I have received a number of questions asking what direction the Bible gives us in making decisions in such cases. The first consideration is the scripture’s directives on Christians being good citizens who obey the government as one of the primary institutions God ordained to structure and manage society (the others being the family and the church). Of course, Jesus said “render to Caesar” but there are more specific and detailed verses in the New Testament on the subject. Both the Apostles Paul (in Romans chapter 13) and Peter (in 1st Peter chapter 2) provide input on the subject. 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. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. Romans 13: 1 – 2 [ESV] Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 1st Peter 2: 13 – 15 [ESV] Christians are commanded by the Bible to be good citizens. According to the verses above, this includes obeying the rules and regulations legislators and those in the executive branches put forth. Other verses tell us it also includes other behaviors such as paying taxes when due. When the Governors of various states began asking that church leaders please consider suspending in-person services, preachers I know moved online immediately. But it involves more than just obeying the laws. Christians are implored throughout the scriptures to think beyond themselves, always caring for others the best we can. Self-righteousness and selfishness are the two attributes Bible believers are taught most to be on guard against. Do I desire to participate in a corporate worship service with my church family? YES! Absolutely yes. But I nor any members of the church want to recklessly expose anyone at the church or others in our community to a health risk by gathering in large groups right now. Of course, the question is raised about the risk churches run allowing the government to tell them not to worship. There is a verse that supports this line of thinking but we must keep it in context. The verse is found in the book of Acts in the New Testament. It deals with a situation where the Apostles had been arrested (again) for preaching the Gospel. Having been told by certain leaders not to preach the Gospel anymore, we see their answer in Acts chapter 5. But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.” Acts 5: 29 [ESV] If political leaders or courts were to tell Christians we could not proclaim the Gospel, we would be obligated by the directives in the Bible to defy those orders and continue to spread the word. But that is not what has occurred. Our church, like most others, has continued spreading the Gospel by moving to online services and classes. The government has not tried to restrain our faith or the promotion of it. Therefore, those who endeavor to follow the Bible’s teachings – regardless of whether they personally agree with the shelter in place and quarantine initiatives and regardless of whether they will vote against the politicians who enacted those orders – have gladly followed the rules and closed down their services for now. Andy’s book, Clear Vision: How The Bible Teaches Us To View The World, can be purchased here.
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