One issue that has come up during our pandemic period in our country has been whether the government (county, state, or federal) has the constitutional power to close or interfere with church services. Last year the Grace Community Church of Pastor John MacArthur near Los Angeles, CA refused to comply with the county ordinance to close its doors or follow stringent rules to be able to meet.
MacArthur and his attorneys have stood firm on their stand that government is infringing on the constitutional law of separation of church and state. They also insist that church worship and other corporate meetings are an essential part of our society, and should not be controlled by the government.
They have gone to court fearing that giving in to the government now will set a wrong precedent in future cases. They argue that “Christ is Lord of all. He is the one true head of the church and is sovereign over every earthly authority.” They feel compliance “would be disobedience to our Lord’s clear commands.”
In Hebrews 10:25 Paul states “do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together … especially as you see the day approaching (referring to the 2nd coming of Jesus). He says we need to get together in order to encourage one another. In our day this would certainly apply because many feel this day is approaching.
It’s not an easy decision to make, for we are to obey the government as God’s ordained authority over us (Romans 13:1,2). But when the decisions of our authorities conflict with the commands of God, Peter says, “we ought to obey God rather than man” (Acts 5:29).
So, this is when we need to pray for wisdom. I feel that we should keep the doors of our churches open for those who choose to come, but take proper safety precautions so that we are not endangering anyone who may be at risk. The Grace Community Church felt they could not meet the proposed safety standards and still accommodate everyone that wanted to attend. So, their case is still in court waiting for a final decision to be made.
But separation of church and state is something we don’t want to lose. God wants our free worship, according to our conscience. When state and church become one authority, absolute power results and we lose all freedoms.
By retired Pastor Alan Dean,
Seventh-day Adventist Church