When the government commands us to stop doing something that God commands us to do, what should we do? Who do we obey?
The Bible is clear: “We must obey God rather than men.” – Acts 5:29
On the one hand, God commands us to gather for Lord’s Day worship. But on the other hand, the government has banned public assemblies. So what do we do?
This is precisely the dilemma that churches in Ontario have been facing for the last 10 weeks. The church is to be an assembly and yet we’ve been banned from assembling.
And the more I’ve thought about it, the more I’m convinced that Romans 13 is simply not adequate justification for canceling public worship services. As I alluded to above, Christians have always believed that we are to submit to our governing authorities except for when they command us to disobey a command of God. When that happens, we must appeal to God as the higher authority.
So what then have churches been doing for the last 10 weeks?
Churches should see themselves as voluntarily submitting to the government’s restrictions not simply out of a desire to obey Romans 13, but rather out of a desire to follow the Matthew 12:7 principle. This principle teaches that the preservation of human life is a higher priority than things like proper Sabbath observance. For God desires mercy, not sacrifice.
That means that the decision to subsequently ‘reopen’ public worship services again should not hinge on whether or not our government lifts the assembly ban! Rather, it should hinge on whether or not gathering again can be done responsibly with appropriate measures in place such that the Matthew 12:7 principle is not violated.
All that to say this: once a church reaches that point, then it should immediately reopen regardless of whether or not the government ban is still in place.
Because “we must obey God rather than men,” (Acts 5:29).