A Gift From Above1
Today the news is reporting that Governor DeWine of Ohio has signed a bill that bars any state of local government in Ohio from closing houses of worship because of a health emergency.
If you don't know it already religious liberty is a great gift, one that many people have prayed for, sacrificed, suffered and died for. We must not take that lightly, for to do so would be an act of ungratefulness to our good God who grants it to us.
Keep in mind, too, that no right is guaranteed. As it must be gained, it must also be guarded and maintained or it will be taken away. Nothing is ever settled. The cost of liberty is eternal vigilance.
While we are enjoying our religious liberties in Ohio, let us not forget Christians in California and other states who are being persecuted for the normal practice of their faith by state and local governments.
The governor's signature is a good start in recovering and shielding our liberties, even if his hand was forced by republican lawmakers who, it is reported, are drawing up articles of impeachment against him. But we cannot stop here.
Ohioans must reject the closing of their businesses, and the 90 day house arrest that illegally and immorally imprisoned our people this past spring. Freedom of movement, and the ability to conduct free commerce are also God-given gifts; and pleading "Covid-19" to justify every outrageous crack of the whip is getting very old.
Lastly, some Christians are religiously justifying the wearing of masks, and social distancing (an oxymoron if ever there was one). They say that to do so is an act of love for neighbor, the keeping of the Lord's command: love your neighbor as you love yourself. That is only their interpretation, however.
Just as strong a case can be made that masks, and distancing, are harming our neighbor. That they are making our nation and its people mentally ill. And that many more people are dying of hopelessness, loneliness, despair, fear, poverty, feelings of uselessness, unemployment, suicide, domestic violence, alcohol and drug abuse, than the lives that are purportedly being saved by draconian measures.
People ask me as a pastor if Covid-19 is God's judgment on the world for its sins. My standard answer is: God has not confided the same in me. But then I further say: While the virus may not be God's wake up call to us, the irrational, illegal and immoral response to it by cowardly leaders (Neville Chamberlain's all) in government, medicine, media and sadly, the church, may well be: though, again, God has not confided the same to me.
But what we do know from Holy Scripture, and our own experience, is that God is merciful and will relent, and turn away his judgment from those who repent of their sins. Such repentance is practiced in the church, not simply in the space between one's ears.
Christians also know that even when we suffer the consequences of our own sins, even here God, in mercy, will relent, comfort, console, strengthen us and restore us to even greater faith and love.
"Fear the LORD you his saints, for those who fear him lack nothing. Many are the troubles of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him from them all." (Psalm 34:19)