Originally published May 4, 2020
Some Christians are saying that obedience to COVID-191 safety measures reflects a lack of faith. What does the Scripture say?
Many readers might find this question a bit strange because the answer seems obvious. But, the fact is that this is a common question circulating among Christians on social media. The question actually harbors a couple of interesting issues. The first issue involves the nature of faith and the second the nature of our place in this present world in relation to governmental authority. So, let’s look at these two issues.
What is True Faith?
Some think that Christian faith is “blind faith”. Richard Dawkins has said that “faith is belief without evidence and reason.”2 However, true Christian faith is believing something for which you have substantial evidence or believing someone who you are sure is reliable.3 God has provided us both evidence (Jn. 20:31; 21:24, 25) and personal experience (Rom. 8:16) to validate our faith in His Word.
We are acting on our faith when we are acting upon the knowledge of God’s assurance to us of His care over us. This is assured to us in many passages of His Word, perhaps most famously in the Lord’s saying “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matt. 6:26). This persistent loving care over us is implied in the question asked here. This raises the question, “can we do anything we wish and still depend on His protection?”
The Lord Jesus Himself sets some limits. When the Devil tempted the Lord Jesus to demonstrate His power by jumping from the roof of the temple, He replied “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.” (Matt. 4:7) So, we are not given liberty to test God by doing whatever we might please, particularly when it puts us in harm’s way.
Confidence in God’s care over us does give us peace when we are called to walk in a path which others might find impassible. (Ps 23:4) Those who are called to serve in a missionary ministry may find themselves in situations which are dangerous. Here they can serve with the peace of knowing that God will provide whatever is needed for the ministry they are called to do. This is true faith that is according to God’s will.
Obedience to Whom?
Next let us consider the question of whether it would be God’s will to disregard the “safety measures” recommended by the Government regarding the widespread danger of contracting the COVID-19 disease. The “safety measures” are intended for our benefit and the benefit of the larger society. The government institutes a wide variety of regulations and laws.
Our obligation to the government is set out most clearly in Romans 13:1-7. Romans 13:1a is particularly clear: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities.” In addition to being subject, Titus 3:1 and 2 tell us “to be ready to do every good work, to speak evil of no one, not to be contentious, to be mild, shewing all meekness towards all men.” (See also 1 Peter 2:13-17.)
God delegates wide authority to the government over our behavior so long as it does not impinge our obligations to God. But, notice this is in regard to obligations to God, not our personal convenience or even benefit. We also are not here to “set things right” in the world. “We are but strangers here; heaven is our home.”4
The Limit to Obedience
Scripture also gives us guidance regarding the limit of our responsibility to obey governmental regulations. In Acts 4 and 5, we read that the apostles were brought before the religious council and commanded to stop preaching the resurrection of Jesus. In Acts 5:29 we read that they said “We must obey God rather than men.” Throughout history Christians have in many countries suffered imprisonment and death for preaching the Gospel. Even today Christians are counted as the most persecuted religious group.5
There is also an important requirement from God regarding our testimony in 1 Peter 3: 14-17 where we are admonished to show “gentleness” and “respect” to those who question us.
14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled,
15 but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you;
16 yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.
17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.
1. COVID-19 is the severe respiratory disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus that circulated widely throughout the world from the end of 2019 through 2020. The “safety measures” were regulations by the governments of various countries and states to restrain activities that were believed to rapidly spread the virus.
2. Richard Dawkins. AZQuotes.com, Wind and Fly LTD, 2020. https://www.azquotes.com/quote/702123, accessed April 30, 2020.
3. William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith (Wheaton: Crossway, 2008), pp 15-25.
4. T. R. Taylor, Spiritual Songs (Beamsville, ONT: Believers Bookshelf Canada, 2002), No. 180.