California has recently reclosed religious services. Churches are left with the option of defying ‘government’ orders and potentially blamed for the spread of Covid-19 and associated deaths or following orders and ceasing to be the church as we have known it. The Christian, and the church at large must decide when to disobey government orders and ignore all social opinions in service of the Lord and when to submit to the government and be aware of the image of Christ (for the only stumbling block should be Christ and not us).
The answer is simple. If church is simply an event to attend to receive teaching on scripture and enjoy a spiritual high in music, then quite honestly, there was never truly a compelling reason to value church in person above online lessons and worship music. If that is all church has been, then one should not go, and the church should not meet. We should live at peace and submit to the government.
But — if Church is a place where God works through his people, where God changes lives despite any flaws in the way we do worship in its emotional focus, the sermon in its disproportional length and emphases, and often marginal involvement in others’ lives; if communion is more than just remembrance like Thanksgiving and is something that the Holy Spirit shows up for; if it is the place that God calls all Christians to show up, fully present, in obedience to him just as much as feeding the homeless, doing good and avoiding sin; if going to church is where we obey the command to love one another and is the place through which we learn, focus, and fixate on this love for another – then, and only then we must… we absolutely must continue to meet regardless of the consequences.
This church is worth showing up for even if the consequence is death.
Previously I talked about understanding loving God as obedience and enjoying life. I would like to summarize these with the proposition that the life worth living is the one that reflects the character and nature of God. If we know who God is, then we can live the life we want to.
Rather than try and urge people to just obey God in order to love him, if we focus on reflecting his nature, we include both direct obedience following his created order. We need to have a mindset that seeks to follow his design in creation. If we are only seeking to follow law, then what are we to do with the myriads of grey areas we run into on a daily basis?
For example, if I am to reflect the nature of God in my finances, I am going to give money to those in need, I will avoid debt, I will not stress over finances, and I will save for a rainy day. Giving money reflects God’s love and care for those in need. Avoiding debt follows God’s wisdom of not being bound to another human being. Not stressing shows faith in God’s providence and mimics the faith in God’s plan that Christ had. Saving for a rainy day comes from an understanding that God has made us finite and we have no idea of what will come tomorrow.
Reflecting God’s character, at least for me, helps to reduce the stress of individual decision. My goal is not to make the exact right decision every moment of my life. My goal is to as a whole act out God’s character and nature as much as possible. So where it comes to things that are not moral, I think of the organization and order in God’s creation.
Part of enjoying God’s creation is enjoying it on his terms, even when the sinful way is temporarily more pleasurable. Part of our faith needs to be in the goodness of God as expressed through his order.
For example, Scripture makes it clear that all forms of sexuality are to be saved for marriage. There are however no prescribed rules of physicality in dating. We have not rule of whether holding hands, kissing, cuddling, groping etc. are okay or not. God designed it so that sex means marriage. If you have sex, you are married. If we understand God’s nature as a holy devoted God to his people, and his view on marriage, then it is very simple to reflect God’s complete devotion to covenants by keeping ourselves from all forms of sexuality before marriage.
Though the Church continually rallies “no sex” there is a long list of un-Christ-like behavior between holding hands and sex. So, enjoy life through following God’s character, even if it means forgoing pleasure in the moment.