From Pastor Gunnar's Desk 05/20/20
Some have asked about my stance on whether our rights are being violated by Governor Inslee ordering us not to assemble during this phase of the Coronavirus reopening plan. To begin, I’d like to assert that there is a distinction that needs to be made between our rights as Christians, and our rights as United States citizens. These rights may overlap, but they are also, according to the Lord, separate, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” Mark 12:17
That said, our rights as Christians, and the ramifications of those rights, always need to be considered first. So, here are our rights: We have the right to become children of God (John 1:12). And… that’s it. But, from that right, we have a calling to respond to life based on that reality. Along these lines, it’s God’s will that we would surrender our bodies, and minds to Him (Romans 12:1-2). It’s God’s will that we’d give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). It’s God’s will that we would become holy (1 Thessalonians 4:3). It’s God’s will that we would be filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18-19). It’s God’s will that we’d be willing to suffer (I Peter 3:17; 4:1, 2, 19). And, it’s God’s will that we would submit to others (Ephesians 6:6), including government officials (Romans 13:1-7).
During this time in quarantine we have all experienced struggles in different ways – whether through loneliness, financial burdens, educational difficulties, or family strife. But we’ve all also had something in common, we’ve all carried the privation of not being able to legally assemble. That said, as we face such trials, our response is supposed to reflect the reality of our relationship with God our Father. Consider Paul’s words while in prison for his faith. Ephesians 4:1-3 “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” The unity Paul describes is for believers, as a living witness to the world of what God is like.
So, our citizenship in heaven must be considered before, long before, secondary considerations as citizens of the United States. We have a calling to obey the law, and be faithful, respectful citizens – out of love for our neighbors (Jeremiah 29:7). But what if the government is asking us to do things that are against God’s will as revealed in His Word? In that case – “We must obey God rather than man” (Acts 5:29). I don’t think we’ve gotten to that point. We’re being asked to refrain from meeting, not because we’re Christians, but as part of a general call to avoid public gatherings. We are not being persecuted.
That said, as good citizens of the United States we have a right to voice our concerns and opinions. Yet, these rights, again, should be undertaken with an awareness of our witnesses as God’s children. Therefore, I urge you to prayerfully consider whether what you do or say would be harmful to our neighbors, or conveying a spirit of rebellion.
At present it looks like we won’t be able to gather again until the end of June. The elders and I are discussing plans for what church will be like once we’re back in our buildings. It’s going to be different, at least at first, but it will be good! It will give us more opportunities to see each other’s perspective, to be patient, and put others first – in unity for Christ’s glory. I am prayerfully and expectantly looking forward to that day!
So, may God bless you richly as we continue to wait.
Because of Christ,
Gunnar began serving as pastor at First Baptist Church, Elma in July 2012. He and his wife Corrine – and their three children Trinity, Eli, and Ian moved to Washington with a vision to help build a vibrant community of people who know the truth of God’s love for them in Christ, and express that love as they gather, and go out into the world. A veteran of youth, college, and young adult ministries for almost twenty years – Gunnar enjoys being in God’s Word, obsessing over sports, and spending time outdoors with his family.