A few days ago I reported how John MacArthur’s Grace Community Church based in Los Angeles, CA won a court case allowing the congregation to resume church services.
The church took the city and state officials to court arguing that the state mandated limits on the number of people attending a church service was unconstitutional. The Covid lockdown limited church attendance to 25% of a church’s capacity or 100 people, what ever was lower.
On Friday, Aug. 14, 2020, a Superior Court judge ruled that Grace Community Church could continue services provided that families social distanced and everyone wore masks. They could function under these conditions until a full court case was heard on the matter on Sept. 4, 2020.
However, the Los Angeles Health Department immediately appealed the Friday decision to the California Court of Appeal and won a stay against the ruling the next day. This meant the church must abide by the state’s current lockdown regulations until the court hearing in September.
But in response, the church defied the second ruling and proceeded ahead with its Sunday church services.
In his sermon to the congregation, MacArthur said:
They’re not willing to work with us. They just want to shut us down. But we’re here to bring honor to the Lord.”
Now I know there are believers who will refer to Bible passages that tell us that believers need to obey those in authority over us (1 Peter 2:13-16, Romans 13:1-5).
However, this must be balanced with the numerous times believers practised civil disobedience, essentially disobeyed the order of governments.
It starts as early as the book of Exodus, when Israel’s two midwives refused to kill the boys born to the women of Israel as ordered by the Egyptian pharaoh.
However, perhaps a closer example to what we are seeing today is in the life of Daniel who was a close advisor to the King of Persia. In order, to stifle Daniel’s growing influence with the king, the other advisors had a law passed forbidding anyone from praying or worshipping to anyone other than the king for a period of 30 days.
They knew that Daniel prayed three times a day to Jehovah and after the edict was passed they waited until Daniel prayed and immediately reported him to King Darius.
Daniel knew what he was doing broke the law (Daniel 6:10), but decided to pray anyway. This resulted in him being thrown into the lion’s den where God divinely protected him.
In other words, it seems that God approved of this act of peaceful civil disobedience.
When Peter was order by Jerusalem authorities to quit preaching Jesus was the Jewish Messiah, how did the apostle’s respond?
Peter simply said we must obey God rather than man (Acts 5:29).
How did the Apostles come to this conclusion? It was very simple. A few verses earlier, we read that the apostles had been arrested and thrown in jail for preaching the gospel. But that night, an angel broke them out of jail. An angel broke the law and told the apostles to return to preaching and teaching (Acts 5:17-20).
There are times when God is completely fine with peaceful civil disobedience.
In MacArthur’s case, his church believes there is a double standard at work in California, because BLM protestors are allowed, and even encouraged, in their demonstrations that often directly violate COVID health guidelines.
READ: UPDATE: Appeals Court Overrules Judge’s Decision in California Church Case, Church Meets for Sunday Services Anyway
I did a podcast on the issue of civil disobedience a few weeks back: