Why I Do What I Don’t Want to Do
In recent weeks, believers in Christ have been asked to behave in ways that are counter to their personal values and instincts. I would like to share a few personal thoughts on the specific regulations, guidelines and requests made by our government in light of the COVID-19 season.
Before I continue, I want to acknowledge some valid points:
- My freedom to worship as I choose is protected by the U.S. Constitution. It is found in the First Amendment in what is often referred to as the “Free Exercise Clause”.
- There are some in positions of political power who have treated the church unfairly as a means of advancing a social agenda or for monetary gain.
- During the COVID-19 season, the importance of the church’s work in the community has been trivialized by labelling corporate worship as “non-essential” and abortion clinics and liquor stores as “essential.” I realize this distinction may have been based, partially, on the number of people who would assemble at one time. But it is still difficult to see restrictions placed on the church in order to save lives, while an institution that intentionally chooses to end human lives is considered essential. If nothing else, I believe our government should have used more appropriate terminology.
You might ask, “Then why do you allow the government to tell you what to do?” The answer is two-fold:
First, I follow my government’s instructions because I am commanded to do so in the Word of God. “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.” (Romans 13:1-2) is
This doesn’t mean God is pleased with every government on earth, or that He honors ungodly behavior on the part of leaders. It also doesn’t mean Christians should be silent about their convictions. However, I must remember, my allegiance to God doesn’t give me a moral right to disobey my government just because I am offended by the actions of politicians. I need to respect the principle of law, even when I dislike those in power. If I don’t like those in power, I must participate in the political process to bring about change. If change doesn’t occur, I can practice social disobedience, but in doing so I must be ready to accept the consequences.
I will add that, in history, there have been a few occasions where people of God have felt compelled to terminate a government that was thoroughly evil (such as Nazi Germany), but these events are relatively rare and should not be taken lightly by anyone who fears God.
In general, I should try to be a good citizen, respect and obey those in authority over me, and support the rule of law. This is one reason why I follow the direction of a government with which I do not fully agree. It is why I wait at a red light at 3:00am, when there are no cars in sight. It is the right thing to do (You guessed right – I have been tempted to do otherwise).
Secondly, while God is my supreme authority, I believe He has asked me not to use my freedom as an excuse to overlook the needs of others. In 1 Corinthians 10:23, the Apostle Paul wrote, ‘I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive.’ This passage is foundational to the Christian principle of something known as “Christian Liberty” (Along with Romans 13:1-15:13). Briefly, Christian Liberty involves a broad range of free choices I exercise while considering the needs of my brothers and sisters in Christ. For Paul, the main topic was dietary restrictions, as the early church wrestled with cultural differences between Jews and Gentiles.
For me, in this COVID-19 season, the discussion encompasses the things I do for the sake of others who could be offended or hurt by my actions. I don’t wear a mask around others, or practice 6 feet of social distancing because I have been told to do so by my government. If I wanted to disobey these guidelines, I could find plenty of places to do so with little consequence.
I practice good COVID-19 protocol because I am convinced it will save lives, and out of deference to others. In my personal circle of relationships I have friends with underlying health conditions, those with relatives at home with compromised immune systems and some whose financial security is dependent on staying healthy. I don’t want to do anything that makes the people I care about afraid, or keeps them from feeling safe. If my actions keep someone else from gathering in worship with others or puts their health and well-bring at risk, then I have exercised my freedom in an unconstructive way.
It takes some self-control to keep some of the “valid points” I shared above from leading me down a path that hurts my brothers and sisters in Christ. But I believe this is something God has called me to do.
I don’t expect you to agree with me. That is also a part of the principle of Christian Liberty. But I do ask that you consider what you might be willing to do for the sake of others who are in a weaker position. Indeed, we do serve a higher authority!
Which is exactly why I don’t always do what I have the right to do.