In the present era of social distancing due to the C19 pandemic, one thing has become evident in the last 6-months. Churchgoers in the United States are well-familiar with the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, especially where it states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Many are using it as a bumper sticker to prop up their resistance against state and local government mandates that require churches to either remain closed or limit the number of people in attendance.
To be clear, the U.S. Congress has not passed any law that establishes a religion or prohibits people from exercising their faith. So what is the problem? The problem is some churchgoers believe that social distancing and restrictions on large gatherings, which varies from state to state, infringes on their civil rights. Since they cannot attend church, that is to say, have the church gather into one place to worship, they claim, “If I am unable to go to church, the government is preventing me from practicing my faith.” If so, does that line of reason minimize the power and omnipresence of God to a single place of worship? We, the church, can worship anywhere, physically separated yet united in spirit.
“Yes, but the Bible says in Hebrews do not forsake the assembly of the saints.” True! The purpose of the assembly is so the pastor can impart the message given to him by the Holy Spirit and do so in a shared public setting where the church gathers. Praise God that He has provided a means through technology by which pastors can still reach out to their congregations in these uncertain times of the C19 pandemic. Jesus said, “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). It is not about where we worship; it is about how we worship regardless of whether we gather physically or virtually.
Malcolm Tolbert (1970) points out that people must learn that “worship is not validated by a traditional place but by a transcendent power,” i.e., God (p. 254). The honor to praise and worship God is not restricted to a building; we can worship God at home, in our cars, and with fellow believers because Jesus said, “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst” (Matt. 18:20). So again, I ask, what is the problem?
Some people hold to the position that the whole pandemic was a political farse to suppress the people. Others claim the pandemic is not as devastating as the public was led to believe. In either case, both believe there is no need to restrict churchgoers from gathering in large groups. Perhaps, to some degree, they are correct, or maybe not, but believers in Christ should not make the claim they are unable to worship God since they cannot go to church. According to Scripture, that is not the case, and such claims only seem to weaken the transcendent power and authority of God in the world’s eyes.
Michael Foust, a ChristianHeadlines.com contributor, reported in a news article that one church in Santa Clara, California, has refused to close its doors and, as a result, has so far incurred a total of $52-thousand in fines from the county. According to the article, “Health regulations from the city and county prohibit the church from gathering or singing indoors.” In this case, the Bible is quite clear. Apostle Paul wrote:
“Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.”Romans 13:1-2/ESV
Could it be that such a stance against the governing authorities plays right into the hands of Satan? Could it be that these church gathering restrictions are God-ordained because He is pressing His church to be less inward-facing and more outward-facing to seek out the hurting, the homeless, the hungry, those in need to hear the gospel? What if this is the Lord at work here to get His church’s focus off politics and Washington and refocused on His righteousness and kingdom. Perhaps, in this case, it is not the world that needs calibrating, but the church.
Heavenly Father, As we, those who are called by Your name, continue to traverse through this brief journey we call life, help us recognize and align our will to Yours day-by-day. Please help us keep in perspective that the battle is not ours, but Yours and that our calling, our commission, is to go forth and make disciples of all nations. Please strengthen us to always focus on You, not the world around us, as did Peter when he walked on water so long ago. Help us always to seek first Your kingdom and Your righteousness in all things. Father, we ask all of this in the precious and holy name of Your Son, Jesus, amen.
1 Tolbert, M. O. (1970) Luke. C. J. Allen (Ed.). The Broadman Bible Commentary, (pp. 1-17). Nashville, TN: Broadman Press
2 Foust, M. (2020, September 2). ‘We Are Not Closing,’ Pastor Declares after County Fines Church $52,750 for Worship Services. ChristianHeadline.com. Retrieved from https://www.christianheadlines.com/contributors/michael-foust/we-are-not-closing-pastor-declares-after-county-fines-church-52750-for-worship-services.html.