People who have been following the fringe news stories reporting on state government responses to COVID-19 were not surprised to learn about the extreme measures Mississippi, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina and a few other states are going to. While all states have adopted “stay at home” policies, a few other states have gone beyond policy and reacted as if their mandates were the law. One county in Mississippi issued $500 dollar tickets to people who attended drive up church services. Those fines were later dismissed after receiving pressure from the governor and the public. https://www.magnoliastatelive.com/2020/04/13/mississippi-town-says-it-wont-enforce-500-tickets-issued-to-drive-in-churchgoers/ In Kentucky, the governor sent state police to church parking lots on Easter to record license plates. Those individuals were then contacted and required to a 14-day self-quarantine or face the threat of "further enforcement measures." https://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/2020/04/12/kentucky-churches-hold-in-person-easter-services-despite-order/5127260002/ In Michigan, the governor extended the state’s stay at home until April 30 and banned crossing the street to visit with neighbors or driving to see friends. https://content.govdelivery.com/attachments/MIEOG/2020/04/09/file_attachments/1423850/EO%202020-42.pdf But perhaps the most controversial move was by the government in North Carolina. Not so much the move but what was said about how they responded to citizens. On Tuesday more than 100 protesters rallied in downtown Raleigh to reopen North Carolina, describing the stay-home order as an unconstitutional overreach. Protesters were warned three times by capital police to disperse and in the end one protester, Monica Faith Ussery, was arrested and charged with violating the executive order. When questioned about the move the Raleigh Police Department tweeted “Protesting is a non-essential activity” to explain why protesters were asked to leave. https://twitter.com/raleighpolice/status/1250111779574894594 In a statement Tuesday night, the Raleigh Police Department stood by its tweet as well as officers’ obligation to enforce the stay-at-home order during “these unprecedented times and unusual circumstances.” They said there’s no exemption spelled out in state and Wake County stay-at-home orders for protesting like there is for other “essential” activities.” https://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/article241999131.html#storylink=cpy
“Protesting is a non-essential activity”? We need guidelines on how to protest at this time? So if you don’t like or disagree with what someone has to say all you have to do is call it non-essential and lock them up? This reminds me of how they handled disagreements with the government in Biblical times. Remember in Acts 4 when Peter and John were locked up for speaking out? How about Paul and Silas in Acts 16? The officials thought that they could silence these men for speaking in public about their beliefs, and for a period of time they did. But reread the story carefully, Acts 4:4 tells us, But many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to about five thousand.… Acts 16 tells us that Philippi was the first “European” city that Paul evangelized. One of their first Converts was Lydia who helped finance their travels. The government might have locked them up, but the “damage” was done. One of the greatest rights we have in our country is the right to assemble and engage in free speech. During this time of social distancing it is important for Christians to obey the requests of our leaders, but when these requests go on for too long or stretch too far we have to decide how to respond in a God honoring and appropriate way. As we have in the previous weeks, we must seek God’s counsel by praying for discernment. These are unprecedented times and there is no playbook for our leaders to follow so we must give them the benefit of the doubt for a season. At the same time we must use common sense, investigation and wise counsel from trusted sources. In our measured response (as in all things) let us not make the mistake of giving up our rights to government out of fear and ignorance.
And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, Philippians 1:9-10
Serving the Savior
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