5 minutes reading time (1013 words)

Why should the Church obey Government Restrictions?

My answer is simple. Well, I hope it will be. Human communities face two types of demands. There are physical demands like the need for food, warmth and shelter. But there are also demands for cooperation in social activities. This cooperation is influenced by common sense, by the expectations of other community members, and by theological convictions in the Christian's life (Romans 13: 1-7). This means that we do not have unlimited freedom. We have to share the social space with others, and this often requires being willing to suffer personal limitations to help others. The new situation with the virus is doing just that. It's demanding a new attitude from society -an attitude of collaboration. Of course there is another alternative; indifference and civil disobedience. The substantial limitations that the Government is imposing on the Church, due to the rapid spread of the virus, should not be seen as a setback but as an opportunity to demonstrate love for the neighbour and cooperation among all members of society. Unfortunately, not everyone shares this vision of society. There are still people who refuse to give up their personal wishes or even show sympathy in these circumstances. So much so that the Government is being forced to crack down indifferent gatherings. All this to encourage the basic feeling of cooperation! In "normal" circumstances the principle of competition and self-centredness constantly gets in the way of the responsibility of cooperation. But in the circumstances that we have now we should expect a break from stereotyped routines that follow the same mechanical course of competiveness and selfishness. Thank God we are seeing that respite. But what will happen when things return to normal? I am afraid that society will relapse into prejudice, rage, panic, intolerance, greed, aggressiveness and lack of cooperation. It seems that it is only under emergency conditions that society can find a balance in life. As soon as things improve, the destructive side of human nature will inevitably re-emerge. That is why the whole world needs to hear the message of the Bible.The Bible not only shows the way of salvation through the sacrificial death of Jesus, but also provides power for civil duty and creates emotions of deep and genuine intensity for the vulnerable and pain-stricken in society. Over the centuries, the Hebrew prophets, the Son of God, and the Christian preachers of the New Testament have relentlessly emphasized the importance of life being conditioned by the words of God. Why? There must be a good reason for this. The reason is God's awesome purpose for the future of humanity. The apostle John, shows us this new condition of life in Revelation chapter 21:1-4:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.

What we expect from God, is not simply eternal life, but the complete transformation of our existing environment. This is not prophetic fancy. When people believe the Gospel, there is a natural disposition of obedience to the ruling authorities, which make progress and real cooperation in society possible. Belief in Neo-Darwinism does not work. We can only hope to see real changes in human nature by living our lives in the truth of God. So what should believers be doing under these conditions? First, we should be suppressing self-serving tendencies. In Philippians 2: 1-4 we have this practical exhortation:

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others (ESV).

That’s the right attitude of the followers of Jesus in society. That’s how we escape the restrictive control of the sinful nature. In addition to this, we should be mindful of our civil responsibilities. In Romans 13:1-3 Paul writes:

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. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad (ESV)

While this advice was especially necessary for Christians living under the Roman emperor. It is also extremely relevant to Christians under the current restrictions of our government. Paul makes it clear that submission is part of the call and the role of believers in society. Only if the government is a “terror to good conduct” and encourages contempt for the laws of God, there should be a reversal of submission to the government. Then and only then, the Christian is compelled to defy the government and oppose it at whatever cost.

 

Discussion Questions

 

In Romans 13:8 Paul defines the responsibility of Christians in society. What is the nature of that responsibility? Why do you think it is impossible to finish paying the debt that we owe each other? Read Philippians 2: 1-4. What are the attitudes that Paul wants us to show in our interactions with others? Discuss the social implications of the self-emptying example of Jesus (verses 6-11) for Christian living? According to Philippians 2:2 what is the basis of this conduct?

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