One of our greatest challenges the past ten weeks of living in the midst of the pandemic is discerning whether or not we can trust those who are leading us. For example, after months of trying to avoid touching any unnecessary surfaces, the Centers for Disease Control is now suggesting that it’s not very likely that a person could catch the COVID-19 virus from touching surfaces. (I’m guessing the makers of Clorox wipes are not very fond of that report). I’ll do my best to withhold my judgment since I’m certain the CDC is still learning many things about the nature of the virus and how it spreads.
On a different issue, I am noticing in myself and in others an increase in anxiety in response to how Governor Walz is reopening our state. There appears to be some significant disparities in his timeline of who gets to be open, when they get to be open, and to what degree they get to be open. Like most notably, why did the famous yellow candy store near Minneapolis get to be open before the local main street stores get to be open? And then why does the Liquor Store, Bomgaars, Menards, and Costco… you know the narrative. All of those inconsistencies have a way of causing us to lose trust in those who lead our state.
And then even more frustrating to you and me is the fact that reopening churches appears to be the last activity we will finally be given permission to engage in. Add all of those things up, and many more, and now a person or people group move beyond losing trust and respond by saying, we don’t care what our leaders say, we’re no longer going to submit to the authority.
So how does a Christian respond when they disagree with authority? The Apostle Paul writes this in Romans 13:1-5, “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. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.”
Wow! Looks like we best continue to submit to our Governor. But then what do you do if your Governor is acting beyond the bounds of his authority (the Constitution of our nation which says we have the right to gather for worship)? Or are there reasons and occasions when we are no longer required to submit?
In Acts chapter 5:29, having been instructed by the religious authorities that they could no longer proclaim the gospel in Jesus’ name, Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings!”
I think we would all agree that we are called to humbly submit to those who are in authority over us, unless they require us to do something God tells us not to do, or unless they insist that we refrain from doing what God has told us to do.
So when it comes to the directives, or the lack of them, from our Governor, do we continue to submit? Or having discerned that the Governor is infringing on our Constitutional rights, do we begin gathering for worship?
Knowing when to submit to authority and when not to has been a very challenging conversation for our Consistory over the past few weeks. And it would be a great discussion to have with your children to help them understand why our Consistory has decided to reopen for worship even though the Governor has asked us not to.
Under His mercy, Mike Altena