You may have heard that Grace Community Church (GCC), pastored by John MacArthur, has disregarded the government’s lockdown orders. And you may remember that I disagreed with one basic foundation of their decision, in my video on civil disobedience. That disagreement still stands. And yet:
- We can have charity with each other, to disagree while still locking arms.
- MacArthur’s stand is now heading to court, which is a great help to us. Because it will answer one of the questions that I expressed ignorance about in my video: what is the legality of the lockdown, according to the California constitution? Now, at some point, we will get our answer.
- MacArthur/GCC’s lawsuit actually has biblical precedent. This may surprise you. But in the book of Acts, try to make sense of when Paul pulls out his Roman citizenship card, and when he doesn’t.1 He plays his citizenship card, it seems, for two reasons:
- When it furthers the advance of the gospel
- When it furthers the welfare of other Christians
Certainly MacArthur has used his national TV appearances to proclaim the gospel. But MacArthur’s lawsuit will – Lord willing – bring clarity, and perhaps relief, to all the churches in California. A clarity and relief that smaller churches like ours are too small to afford to pursue. Regardless of what else you think of MacArthur, it seems he’s following a path well-trod by Paul.
- Thus I find MacArthur’s stand courageous, and I’m grateful. I pray that God would enable us to act on what we believe, too, versus shaping our beliefs by what we were willing – or not willing – to do.
- This speaks to the issue of fear. While some accuse churches of being virus “super-spreaders”, it’s undeniable that “super-spreaders” of fear have been at work. Fear has undeniably shaped our perception of this situation. To see what I mean, here’s a link. And another. To be clear: those who have died, have really died. And each person who finds their self isolated in ICU with this virus experiences a great, fearful trial. Christians included. Death is not natural or good. We fear death.
Yet Christians have news that gives us courage to look to the other side of death, and face it – the resurrection of Christ. That does not mean we act irresponsibly – towards ourselves or each other. But it also means we will not be cowed by fear-mongering, or plied by offers to just stay home and binge Netflix.
So what’s next? There are reports today that a judge has given preliminary approval for GCC to meet indoors. Thus we are prayerfully considering our next steps. So then, please pray with us, especially for wise courage. Because sometimes, the most dangerous thing is not what we fear, but what we do in avoiding that which we fear.
1 By “pull out his Roman citizenship card”, I mean the times when he tells an authority – like a Roman soldier – see, for instance, Acts 22:22-29 – that he is a citizen of Rome – thus telling them that what they have or will do is illegal. In this sense, Paul is not so much DEFYING the government, as he is calling the governing authority in place to follow the law. That seems to be the basis of Grace Community Church’s lawsuit – that they are actually following the constitution of California, and that the governor and their county are not. In this sense, what they are engaging in is “civil disregardance”, not civil disobedience. They are disregarding what they believe to be an unlawful order, and they are testing that claim now in the courts.