As a native Kentuckian, with a Wildcat love and Bluegrass in my veins, I never thought I would hear myself say, “I am so glad to live in the Hoosier State!”
But say it I have. Repeatedly. For several months now.
Our part of Indiana has been quite sheltered from much of the virus madness. My back porch looking out over my garden and the woods behind it, is a long way from Indianapolis. Governor Holcomb has gone out of his way to honor churches and our Constitutional freedoms during this COVID-19 crisis. While we may not agree with his every decision, I still think we can, as Christians, thank God for his leadership and pray for God to keep giving him wisdom and courage. And if all else fails, remind yourselves it could be worse – you could be living in Kentucky. Or California! Then pray for them.
I simply cannot imagine what it must be like to be a follower of Christ in California right now. A pastor in Ventura County has come under intense scrutiny. You should take 20 minutes right now to listen to his impassioned argument and plea to his community, church, state and nation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JptA_y86q8c&feature=youtu.be&t=24
While my own interpretation of the data surrounding this virus closely mirrors this pastor’s, my personal stance on it rests less on the US Constitution, less on fallible and corruptible data, and more on the infallible Word of God. The State simply has no authority to dictate matters of internal church governance. Christ rules as Head of the Church and He does so, practically speaking, through elders / pastors who serve as under-shepherds of His flock (Acts 20:28; Eph 4:11-12; 1 Peter 5:1-5).
While I am grateful our Founders codified the right to religious assemblies in the 1st Amendment to our Constitution, I am even more grateful that they did so as a recognition of our “inalienable rights” that come only from God. The Pastor in Ventura County rightly pointed to this historical reality. And this principle is what seems to be lost in our culture; or, if not lost, outright hated.
If God commands, a human right is established. If God forbids, no human right exists. So, if God commands us as Christians to worship Him, to sing to Him, to gather in His name, to show hospitality to one another, and to bear one another’s burdens, for example, then a truly good government will uphold those rights for their citizens. And if God forbids murder, then a truly good government will outlaw abortion, along with all other forms of murder. And if God condemns homosexual conduct, then a truly good government must at bare minimum strongly discourage it. If God condemns lying, then a government must encourage truth-telling. If God says a man must work to provide for his own, then a government must give him that right and strive to provide ample opportunity for him to do so.
This is how human rights should work. It’s a rather simple concept. Our Founding Fathers grasped it, though like every other human on the planet, they did not live it out perfectly. But O how far we have fallen! Our governments, federal and local, all across this land, now promote evil and discourage good. And even within the church, we cannot seem to stand together on issues that are clearly and explicitly commanded or forbidden by God in Scripture. And if the Church of Christ in the United States of America loses this basic concept of rights derived from God alone, what hope is there for our sin-loving, Christ-hating culture? We have only just begun to experience anarchy and lawlessness.
No fancy strategy or attractional church programs can fix it. It’s time to fast and pray.