Romans 13, 1 Peter 2 and Covid-19
The question of whether or not we obey, or at least “go along” with, the “government agenda” during this Covid-19 pan(scam)demic period, bearing in mind government dictates and advice, across the world, range from draconian to easy going and, with it, Christian opinion on whether or not it is a pan or a scam demic we have been experiencing these past 18 months and how best to respond, varying drastically. I do not wish to go over ground covered in “Covid-19 – an historical review from this blogger’s perspective”, but rather consider a theological question that has exercised thinking Christians, with even those from my own theological stable, who try to be true to what the Bible says, often offering quite different views.
Two passages are often brought up when discussing whether or not (and in what circumstances) we (Christians) obey the government and submit to authority: Romans 13:1-5, 1 Peter 2:13-17.
Needless to say, if you were to do a Google search, you will find articles and videos on the subject, for example: “Resistance, Revolution, Reformation, and Romans (13, That Is) | Douglas Wilson | Grace Agenda 2020”, which I found helpful and “Romans 13 and the COVID-19 Virus” which I found not so helpful, as well as many a sermon preached on submitting to authority, long before Covid-19. Indeed, books have been written on the subject, and one that has been recommended to me by some who share my concerns and views (but have yet to acquire) is titled: “Romans 13 and Covid 19: Knowledge, Warnings and Encouragement for the Church and World”. While (as far as lockdown and mask wearing is concerned) restrictions, as far as what takes place in the UK, have been lifted, there is the threat these may be re-imposed should there be any significant rise in Covid-19 cases. We have now moved on to vaccine passports (i.e. services, employment etc. withheld for those who decline to take the “jab”) and the matter of persuading (even forcing) minors to take the jab.
We may well discuss the context in which our cited texts were written, e.g. a despotic Roman emperor was that authority and it was felt necessary to remind the readership of the need to live as responsible citizens. Yet, as far as the Apostles Paul and Peter were concerned, their “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God” (Romans 13:1) and “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme” (1 Peter 2:13) statements seem unequivocally clear and it is no wonder that today’s leadership in many churches has felt it necessary to go along with what the government tells them to do (and often a lot further – doing what government suggests they ought to do despite not mandating it, even though a growing number of Christians believe the government to be wrong and even acting wickedly).
On the other side of the argument, there is the question of when not to obey the government. In the text cited, it was when obeying the government has to be subservient to obeying God. Granted, it is a contentious question, which has literally split churches (Satan’s divide and rule strategy, supported by the bad guys with their ungodly agenda, seeming to work), and it is not always clear what the right answer is, but if our mantra is (and it should be) truth and righteousness, including carrying out yet another mandate, given by the Lord Jesus Himself, it is not one that we should avoid.
One commendable (Australian response – significant because of the harsh measures its government is imposing), by Christian ministers sharing my own concerns, is the Ezekiel Declaration, which is a letter addressed to the Australian Prime Minister and begins: “As Christian leaders, you should be aware that in accordance with scripture we regularly pray for “and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Timothy 2:2). We do write, however, to you regarding a matter of significant concern. Namely, the proposed introduction of ‘vaccine passports’ into Australian society. For many Christian leaders and Christians, this is an untenable proposal that would inflict terrible consequences on our nation” with the issues helpfully discussed in “We all need to get behind this vitally important Declaration”. I understand a similar letter has been written in the UK, yet sadly many still are not awake.