A Call for Patience
Rev. C. Bouwman, Smithville, Ontario, Canada
Several folks in the congregation and outside have put a number of questions to me over the course of the last few weeks in relation to our current restrictions. So many of those questions were born out of frustration at the restrictions the authorities have been laying upon us. For my part, I share many of those frustration and have found myself having to work through answers that are, to the best of my knowledge, responsible before God’s throne. As undoubtedly many others have questions and frustrations, perhaps there is merit in sharing some of the thoughts that have slowly grown in my mind over the weeks past. I express here a word of thanks to those who have helped to sharpen my thinking on this topic. My prayer is that sharing these thoughts will serve in some way to enhance God’s glory, advance his kingdom, and promote the peace of Jerusalem.
Christ Jesus is King of Canada. With that statement I do not simply mean that all Canadians need to acknowledge Christ as King – though that certainly is true! I mean instead that Christ is actually sitting on the throne of Canada and governing our nation. COVID happened not just under his watch but happened because he sovereignly sent this virus into today’s world. Similarly, Christ Jesus allowed governments and hearth officials to respond in the way they have, irrespective of whether those responses have conformed to the Lord’s revealed will or not. Through this virus none other than King Jesus has re-organized the furniture in the living rooms of our lives.
The Devil, great troubler of the world that he is, does his utmost to play havoc with our thoughts so that we would respond in an unspiritual fashion. That’s something we need to be aware of and to double-check ourselves on, lest sinful thoughts and rebellious attitudes dominate our minds. The Lord made no mistake in pulling us out of the comfortable manner of living we were used to.
Getting used to change always takes time. We invariably go through stages of Denial, Anger, Resentment and Depression before we get to Acceptance and Contentment and Joy. We all walk this road at different paces. Here is where we need the comfort of God’s promises step by step as we navigate the various emotions we go through. That’s also why we need to be daily busy with God’s word individually and in our families.
Our eternal King providentially has us living in a western democracy. That means in real terms (and I intend no disrespect for our elected leaders) that our officials are all relative novices at governing. Our Premier, for example, entered government only a couple of years ago and few (if any) of his caucus had any experience in government prior to our latest provincial election. Further, in our democracy our elected officials are beholden to the will (or mood) of the public. Those two facts means that governments in our western democracies are commonly slow-moving and somewhat bumbling in their actions. That comes out particularly in crises. This does not make our governments evil; it does mean that we need patience with our leaders. And hence multiply prayer for them.
Directly connected with the previous point is this: if the general population of our province sees more value in casinos or sex shops or sports events than in religious meetings (whether churches or mosques, etc), it ought not to surprise us that religious gatherings will not receive priority treatment in being opened. We can write letters to the Premier and to relevant cabinet ministers (and we should!) but as we do so we do well to be aware that living in a secular democracy has consequences. Similarly, we can lay before the Premier and his ministers what the will of the Lord is as revealed in Holy Scripture (and we should!) but we ought not to be alarmed when our secular leaders do not bend before our arguments.
Again, the hearts of our elected officials are as sinful and as inclined to evil as our own. It is human nature (as a result of our fall) to be selfish and so to use the opportunities available to us for personal (including party) advantage. Honesty compels us to admit that we do the same. So we ought not to be surprised to find examples in government regulations that are not only inconsistent but are bent in the authorities’ favor (eg, where are more votes available). Again, with this statement I’m not justifying inconsistencies; I’m encouraging some understanding for government decisions and hence patience.
Too easily we speak of the closing of churches as evidence of persecution. The blessed fact is that we are not told we may not worship the Lord God or place our trust in him (as Daniel was prohibited from doing in Dan 6). We are not told we can’t preach the gospel or listen to its preaching. We are told that there is a public health crisis and so need to refrain from congregating – whether for worship or for sports events or for the Pride Parade (yes, the major of Toronto has just cancelled this year’s Pride Parade).
The bottom reason for our frustration is that we’re not convinced that a morbidity rate hovering below 0.05% warrants shutting down society. If the morbidity rate were around 10% the current criticism on government restrictions would not exist. But the fact is that in a democracy the government is beholden to the will of the public. As long as the public is 1. Of the mind that government has to solve society’s problems; and 2. Reasonably content with how the government is going about solving society’s problems, the government will carry on with its (publicly dictated) course of action. Our impatience should not be directed to the government but should get Christians engaging more with our neighbors. Only when the majority of the population feels the government’s safety measures have gone too far will the government change its approach. That’s the nature of a democracy.
A church here or there engaging in civil disobedience (meaning: calling the church to worship despite government prohibition on congregating) will not convince the government to change course. To be successful, such action needs the support of the wider population. As long as the wider population considers a church’s gathering in the face of prohibition to be morally wrong (on the grounds of protecting public health), such gathering will only convince the public that Christians do not ultimately care about the community. And that does not advance the cause of the gospel.
What attitude, then, is befitting Christians as we await the lifting of our present restrictions?
In first place we need to be very deliberate about adopting a posture of prayerful patience as our officials find their way through this present maze. Being called to a position of leadership in government in the present circumstances must be one of the most difficult assignments anybody could ever receive. We need to pray for our authorities and let them know we pray for them.
Secondly, let’s make a point of assuming the best in others (be it neighbors, government officials, church leaders, etc). Like ourselves, they’ll do their work in weakness. Let’s anticipate that reality, encourage them, and pray for them.
Thirdly, let’s accept how the Lord has rearranged the furniture in the living room of our lives and make the most of it. That means we should intentionally get creative to find novel ways to interact with our neighbors, friends, fellowship groups, etc. As to the Lord’s instruction to gather, let’s explore possibilities to meet in small(er) groups on Sundays.
Fourthly, let’s very consciously resist the blanket of anxiety and fear that easily sucks the joy out of our lives. Christ our Savior, Lord of Canada, has placed this calamity on our land with a view to advancing his kingdom. That confession makes the Christian purposefully optimistic.
Finally, let’s be aware that through COVID the Lord is also forming and sanding and disciplining his people so that we’re ready for further service – be it in this life or the life to come. We’re on a sanctifying journey, and that really is a privilege. What idols need to be turfed from our lives and hearts?
From: A bit to read, February 25, 2021