I've been sitting on this one for a hot minute, knowing full well that at the beginning of anything to do with Covid restrictions, that they were going to be called legal, while entirely otherwise, and that the kind of legality we have nowadays, is starkly different than the kinds of legality when Romans 13 was penned by Paul and the Holy Ghost.
Those direct comparisons can't be made. Between the two time periods at the very least. And of all the times we needed to have a little nuance, this was one of them.
When the scriptures talk about rendering to Ceasar and submitting to authorities and honoring the governor, they are talking about a military dictatorship in practice. That's what Rome was. The Jews and Samaritans didn't vote Pontius Pilate in or Herod for that matter.
The government of the Romans was not a representational legislative assembly with a senate to back them up. It was a much more primitive version of the system we have. Like a Commodore 64 is to your latest MacBook.
Most importantly in all of this, is the nuanced Latin and Canadian verb and noun comparisons. Specifically, in the complete absence of a charter of inalienable rights given to all citizens of Rome. One that is a higher authority in and of itself to the government representatives they could elect. Rome did not afford this kind of power or authority to its citizens. Canada does. At least on paper.
That Charter guarantees things and if not heeded to, damns people to the kinds of tyranny that were put down by military force before it was enacted.
These rights and freedoms are, in fact and comparison, the Caesar we render our lives to. The governors we are to be submissive to and the authority over us at this time that was ordained by God himself is us in this case. Being a good citizen and making use of rights afforded to you is a part of God's plan for the parliamentary democracy you are in. Because just as it bade well for Christians to be politically diplomatic and non-violent with the Romans, it pays to be an active voter in Canada. And you only get to do that legally by the charter of rights that recognizes that freedom and right.
It's God who wants you in His divine will to be able to peaceably assemble and to believe, think and practice the religion of your choosing.
It's his divine will that our American neighbors have the right to bear arms as well.
And the reason I know it's His divine will for these things isn't because of special revelation or a specific portion of scripture that deals with attending a modern-day mosque or owning a .50 cal rifle in California. No no no. It's because if the Bible talks about a generalized principle, then that principle is part of a greater part of human experience and needs to be contextualized to the reader's time while holding a principled commandment from the writer's time. We don't have lampstands and talents and tares or any number of specific things the Bible mentions about day-to-day life. But we do have principles. Or at least we did at one point. Principles that a reader could pick up from scripture and exegete into their lives and sermons. Principles that were bigger than the text itself because they spoke to the desires and will of God throughout the scriptures.
This reader-writer thing got glossed over pretty quick when churches needed a way to get out of the direct fire in the first few months of Covid. We are some of the last few places where large groups of people meet for a purpose that isn't controlled or taxed by the government here in Canada. And we're tax-exempt as nonprofits. I knew they were going to close down churches eventually what I didn't know was if that was going to be by force or fiat.
A fiat church closure was members taking a scripture that instructed civilians under a military dictator, in Roman-occupied Palestine, as if our Premiers and Prime ministers had an ounce of the authority a Caesar would have had or any of his delegates.
A forced church was one where the members knew they lived in a parliamentary democracy. One where their representatives literally represent them in parliament and provincially in the legislatures. One where, in the case of the then overused word unprecedented emergency, the authorities could act and ask of their constituents unprecedented things that it normally and legally couldn't. But when the precedent of covid being uncontrollable by government actions became a reality and the representatives stopped representing them, then the situation changed.
Not the rules mind you. The law was still the law. But under the Canadian Charter of rights, no law, which we as Christians would be bound by our faith to follow, could be made to abridge, abrogate or amend the rights recognized in said charter.
So it did not matter if a church stayed open in defiance. They were obeying Romans 13 as much as a church that closed because both were afforded that right through the same document that is supposed to empower the people before and through elections above the government that represents them in parliament. And both those perspectives were part of God's will for us to obey authority structures that he ordains to be placed over us, which does include how much of that authority is ours to rule over ourselves.
The inherent blindside of any democratic system is that eventually, sinners get to a majority position and vote/emergency decree that it stays that way.
What then Christians. When your faith is outlawed will you turn yourselves in like Peter did in Acts 29
Oh, wait. That's right. That portion of scripture doesn't really exist and neither do we as modern-day Christians if Peter didn't evade the local law enforcement simply wanting to make sure things remained firmly in the Pax Romana.
The entire political discourse and movement rest in the hands of an almighty God and on the shoulders of Christ. And for you, Christan, pastor, believer in the slightest. Your job is to worship him before anything else. And to render to your rights what is your rights, and to your God what is your God's.
Because eventually, like all lesser kingdoms, even your rights will oppose Christ's rule.
It's only a majority vote away in the House of Commons.