I was a bit of a naysayer when the news that churches would be closing due to the COVID-19 pandemic broke. I grew up in a household that held a general trust in government. I still hold that trust in a general sense. My father spent over four-years in Europe fighting for this nation during the Second World War, and my mother, like almost every other adult woman in America at that time, worked hard and sacrificed deeply for the war cause. Nevertheless, 54-years of life have taught me that our government, as well established and committed to individual liberty as it was and, at least to some extent, still is, does not have a great track-record in the past 70 years or so of running things. Although I thank God that I grew up and remain in America, and still believe it is the best, safest, and most economically freeing governmental system to live under, I see flaws.
Our government as a whole, backed by our Supreme Court, freely advocates for the destruction of human life in the womb, virtually up to the point of birth (not that abortions at earlier stages are any less destructive). Our leaders (as a whole) practice financial strategies that, if practiced by any individual in our society, would land them in bankruptcy and, possibly, jail. We spend far more money than we have (and we have a lot of money)! There is waste, injustice at many levels, and even corruption. The amount of hypocrisy (from both major political parties) is sad to witness. So, when our government told us that a pandemic had arisen, and showed us very scary models, and then told us to trust them as they helped us navigate through the panic, I was skeptical. I have to admit, I’m still a bit skeptical. Shutting down the nation’s economy and then sending everyone cash seems contrary to everything I was taught in high school economics, government and civics classes.
And then I read Romans 13: 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. Those are the words of the Apostle Paul, who had suffered terribly under the brutal hands of his own government. They are not the words of a tyrant king or a governmental lackey. Now, this text, like all other biblical texts, must be both received in context and compared to other biblical texts in their proper context. I do not believe that any and all resistance to corrupt, brutal governments is sinful. I do believe that the right to petition our government, seek redress of wrongs, and bear arms against unlawful governmental intrusion are fundamental parts of both our Declaration of Independence and our Bill of Rights. But I believe Paul more than I believe the framers of our constitution. Because I believe Paul more than I believe them, I want to tread lightly.
Why do I tell you all of this? Because I am feeling weary when it comes to this shutdown. My heart grieves for those who have died due to the pandemic or were impacted by it in significant ways, some who are a part of our own congregation. I do not believe the pandemic is a hoax. However, I want to talk to people again without standing six feet away from them. I want to shake a friend’s hand and even hug them when appropriate. I grew up in a family that demonstrated their affection physically (and appropriately). I touch people that I know and love, and I am missing all of that greatly. I want to worship with my church family. I do not want the government to tell us when and how we can do that, because that is not part of my experience in life (although it is the experience of many — maybe most — of our brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the ages). I’m ready to move on. Some of you are right there with me. Some of you are far more cautious.
Now where does this leave us? It leaves us, I believe, where we began this shutdown over six-weeks ago. Our government, as I see it, is not asking us to sin. They are asking us to help curb the spread of this virus. Some restrictions are being lifted, for which many rejoice. However, our president, our governor, and our mayor are advising us not to meet without many restrictions that, to me, would make our corporate worship decidedly unlike corporate worship. Therefore, we wait and pray that new cases of the virus dwindle further. It appears that waiting until June will give us a better perspective on this. If things progress in a positive manner, we will see each other (those who feel comfortable doing so) at some point next month — here, in our home for corporate worship — ready to receive each other again and join our hearts and voices together lifting up the great name of God through his Son Jesus via the outpouring of his Spirit. I await that Sunday with great expectation! I hope you do as well.
Grace and peace,