Regrettably, the time has come for someone knowledgeable in Scripture to respond to the instructions of the New Testament messengers who charged church parishioners with challenging the malfeasance of church leaders.
Many churches, most prominently Evangelical, have defied the attempt of society to stop the COVID-19 delta pandemic from killing more people with mask and distance mandates. From the pulpits, they have preached defiance against the proposals made by expert health professionals.
A prominent Evangelical pastor, John MacArthur, believes that the Bible overrides COVID-19 health orders and has been allowing unmasked congregants to cram into his church without regard to California mandates. He is not alone.
He claims that God is in his corner, quoting a single verse from Acts enunciated by Peter and the disciples. “We must obey God rather than men,” they said to the Pharisees who tried to shut them up.
MacArthur not only hangs his behavior on the single verse in Acts but, lacking other specifics, claims that his action is based on “biblical principles” without listing them. His reasons are really excuses to exercise secular power in his kingdom.
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His one verse of Scripture does not a principle make. Instead, it takes a preponderance of evidence that is in accord with the text and the spirit of the Gospel. So it is imperative to review what else the Bible says on the issue.
Romans 13:1: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities…”
1 Peter 2:13: “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution…”
Titus 3:1: “Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities…”
As a typical Evangelical, MacArthur believes in a literal interpretation of Scripture and is quick to grab onto the apostles’ defiance of the Pharisees. That requires a discussion of a literal interpretation of the three specific verses quoted above. Shouldn’t they be taken literally?
In addition to these specific verses of scripture, the Bible describes the demeanor of Christ while he walked the earth. He never preached contention, instead advising us to be content in all things. Give up your cloaks also, walk the extra mile, turn the other cheek. He himself respected the government by paying taxes.
So the churches that defy a government trying to save the lives of its citizens have permitted their self-righteous arrogance to lead them astray. Scripture is not on their side no matter how prominent the speaker may be.
This plague of arrogance in Christendom also runs afoul many other verses. Being that Evangelicals believe that the Bible is inerrant, it is important to acknowledge numerous other verses that must be authorities in Evangelical theology.
1 Peter 2:12: “Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles...” (Today the Gentiles would be the nonbelievers.)
Philippians 1:17:”Conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ...”
Romans 12:17: “Respect what is right in the sight of all men.”
2 Corinthians 6:5: “Giving no cause in anything in order that the ministry not be discredited.”
Colossians 4:5: “Conduct yourselves wisely among outsiders.”
Romans 2:23-24: “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”
The image of Christianity has been stained by the arrogant departure from the teachings of Jesus and his apostles. The atheists, skeptics and agnostics are having a heyday over the hypocrisy exposed by this arrogance.
They may not be Jesus followers but they certainly know how Jesus followers ought to live. And they have rightly proclaimed that we are not living in harmony with the love of Jesus Christ.
So we have not conducted ourselves worthy of the Gospel or respected what is right in the sight of all men. Because of us, the name of God is being blasphemed in the press and social media.
As believers, we have a lot of repenting to do.
Lloyd Omdahl is a political scientist and former North Dakota Democratic lieutenant governor.