Sunday, August 15, 2021

How Should Christians Respond When Government Bans Church Services?

Joel James from Grace Fellowship Pretoria, in South Africa, has written three articles that help us think about the Christian's response to the government's banning of church services for whatever reason.

THINKING ABOUT "THE BAN" (1): The Relationship Between General And Specific Commands Of Scripture

"All churches in South Africa (and, indeed, around the world) have been affected by government regulations related to COVID. Things especially came to a head in South Africa in January 2021, when our government imposed a ban on church services, while allowing casinos, restaurants, movie theatres, and gyms to remain open. At Grace Fellowship, after respecting the ban for two weeks in order to underline our desire to submit to the government, we then chose to open services in spite of the government's prohibition. We did so based on at least three principles, and the elders have asked me to lay out those principles for us in a series of short articles.

"The first principle that led us to open services has to do with the relationship between general and specific commands of Scripture—particularly when those commands appear to contradict one another in a specific situation."

THINKING ABOUT "THE BAN" (2): Motives, Justice, And The Danger Of Gradualism

"In this series of articles, I am reflecting on the reasons Grace Fellowship chose to ignore the South African government's ban on worship services in January 2021—a ban that closed churches, but that allowed restaurants, movie theatres, gyms, and casinos to remain open.  It is vital that we reflect on what we did and why we did it.  As a congregation, we want to identify and embrace long-term principles that will inform our consciences, strengthen our faith, and guide us when we have to respond to similar situations in the future.

. . .

"Making a decision to ignore government bans on church gatherings or on evangelism is a novel experience for Western Christians (myself included).  That's one reason the recent situation in South Africa has caused so much turmoil and division in churches.  While decisions of this nature are not new for believers in other parts of the world (such as in China, for example), they are new for us.  We were off the edge of the map, so to speak.  We should, then, expect a certain level of disagreement and confusion as we find our feet:  we are learning a completely new facet of Christian wisdom on the fly."

THINKING ABOUT "THE BAN" (3): The Danger of Gradualism and Appeasement

"This is the third and final article in which we are reflecting on our church's response in January 2021 when the South African government temporarily banned church services while continuing to allow restaurants, movie theatres, casinos, and gyms to remain open.  As I pointed out in the second article, one of the reasons that we chose to hold services in spite of the government's prohibition was to avoid the trap of gradualism.  Gradualism, as I've entitled it, is the danger of giving in bit by bit, the danger of failing to identify a decisive moment to take a stand, and as a result, often failing taking a stand at all."

I heard this morning at church that Joel has indeed written a fourth article which will probably be available on the church's website tomorrow sometime.

As Christians, we should not acquiesce to government just because the government tells us to. We must become like the apostles who said that we should obey God rather than men. Whatever flies in the face of what is true and good and right before God, should be disobeyed in love and humility.

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