Prosperity Under Governmental Oppression
Argument #2: God has given us authority, so we do not have to obey other authorities. An often-quoted scripture comes from Acts 5:29, spoken by Peter and other apostles: “We must obey God and not men.”
This Scripture obviously does not mean that we can actively disobey men. We must look at the context in which this Scripture is true. In Acts 5, Peter and the apostles were put in jail by the Sadducees for teaching in Jesus’s name. While in jail, they had received a direct order from God to teach anyway. When confronted by the Sadducees for teaching about Jesus again, Peter and the other apostles respond, “We must obey God and not men.” We must share our faith regardless of what governmental authorities command us to do, or what they punish us with.
The government is not asking us not to share our faith, nor are they punishing us if we do share it. The government is also not forcing us to close our churches altogether, just to move our church services from in-person to online. It is asking us to wear a mask to protect others. Whether or not we agree that masks do protect others is beside the point; mask-wearing is not even close to being threatened with bodily harm for sharing our faith. The scripture “We must obey God and not men” is speaking about an entirely different context and is thus not a valid argument.
But let us concede, for the sake of argument, that mask wearing is tantamount to governmental oppression. Jesus was persecuted by Roman governmental oppression and died because of it. We get the miracle of the Resurrection and our sins are forgiven as a direct result of the Roman government’s oppression. The Gospel prospered under the same Roman oppression and religious persecution after the Resurrection. The Christian church was born under government oppression. The greatest move of God on the planet in current times may be happening in Communist China.
If mask wearing is governmental oppression, I am not worried about it. God can use any circumstance and it is in the darkest of times that the light shines most brightly. My concern is over sharing the Gospel no matter what political climate we find ourselves in.
God Gives Governments Their Authority
Jesus taught us to obey governmental authorities where they have been given authority (Romans 13).
The coronavirus is about public safety. Public safety is not a matter for the church, but rather the state. The church is commanded to support the state in such matters. Whether right or wrong, God has given the government this authority.
Romans 13:1 says, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”’
Listen to me, believer – God has established that authority. Your response in matters that are established by God is to obey. Anything else is rebellion against God and His established authorities. Sure, you can protest and speak out if you disagree – that is the beauty of democracy – but you must obey. God has said that.
If you think I am being too strong, Romans 13:2 says, “Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.”
Argument #3: All authority has been given to us by God.
We must look at the whole Bible and not just our “prooftexts,” or verses taken out of context. If I take this Scripture out of context, I can say, “Who is the government to tell me how to drive? I have all authority!” and drive on the wrong side of the road or refuse to pay taxes. But that argument misuses the doctrine of the authority of the believer and is contrary to what the Scripture means.
Jesus Paid Taxes to an Ungodly Institution
I used paying taxes as an example of how I could misuse that Scripture purposefully. Why? Because Jesus paid taxes to even the extremely corrupt Roman system that oppressed multitudes. He taught us to do the same. Surely, He was establishing a principle. Jesus, the revolutionary God in man, a fearless human being, could have easily built a case to not pay the evil Romans. Imagine a society where believers refused to pay taxes because of evil regimes – because of course, what government is not corrupt!
The “all authority” passage of Matthew 28 actually says that Jesus has all authority, but critically continues, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:18-19). We have been given authority so that we can reach the world with the message of the Gospel. It is as if Jesus is saying, “Do not fret over things like paying taxes and wearing masks. They are minor in comparison to the mandate I am giving you, which is to spread my message to the ends of the earth.”
He taught His disciples and us to literally go the extra mile for evil people, as witnesses.
“If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If [a Roman soldier] forces you to go one mile (it was the law to carry a Roman soldier’s equipment for one mile), go with them two miles” (Matt. 5:40-42).
I am not trying to answer the question of whether the mask mandates and other orders are governmental oppression or not; that is not the purpose of this blog. Whether wearing a mask is right or wrong, God has given authority to the government and tells us that anything but obeying the government is rebellion against God. Believer, we have a different King that we serve, and a different mission given to us.
For the next blog, we will examine this mission given to us by God in more depth, and finally answer the series of questions I asked in the first blog: Would Jesus wear a mask?