I recently received an email from a thoughtful, godly member of our church, who has deep disagreements with the shelter in place order and wanted some counsel on how to express this disagreement in a Christ-honoring way. Below was my answer. The question was specifically aimed at if/how to do this on social media, but the answer applies to all forms of communication. I pray that you find this guidance useful and biblical as you seek to honor the Lord in the public square.
Hi church member,

   This is a great question that has a lot of gray area. So let me just outline a few general points about expressing ourselves on social media, and then I can hone in on your specific questions. First, the same biblical principles concerning communication apply to social media as they do to real life. So for example, Paul lays out a helpful filter in Ephesians 4,

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (Eph 4:27)

This would seem to forbid speech aimed at belittling or tearing people down, as well as anything else that might not be for the purpose of helping, blessing, building up, promoting understanding etc. Additionally, I would want the fruit of the Spirit to characterize my social media interactions. So love, not anger, peace, not conflict etc. Finally, I would want my social media activity to demonstrate integrity (not slandering, not putting forth accusations without evidence, or bearing false witness) (Prov 19:1). I think as long as these principles (along with wisdom Prov 15:7) are being applied, you are free to share your opinions, concerns, or convictions.

A pastoral question that is connected to this is the question of motive. Why am I sharing or posting what I’m sharing or posting? Peter tells us to “Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.” (1 Pet 2:16). Am I serving God in what I’m doing right now? That isn’t always immediately obvious to us, but if you refer back up to Eph 4:27, I think you will find a lot of help in discerning that for yourself. Additionally, it’s worth asking: is it clear from my social media activity that there is “hope” within me (1 Pet 3:16)? These are all important questions to ask ourselves whenever we plan to engage in the public square. Now to your specific questions…

How do we exercise our freedom if our government is violating the constitution?

I think the answer is: through all legal means and in a Christian (as noted above) way. Historically, we as protestants have drawn the line for civil obedience at the point where the state tries to require us to do something that God forbids, or forbids something that God requires. If the state has an unjust law that doesn’t impinge upon our loyalty to God, then our loyalty to God has typically driven Christians to work through legal, God-honoring, means to change those laws.. God’s law is our primary concern; the constitution is our secondary concern.

In the event of a government overreach, do we just stay quiet, submit, and not challenge them?

No. You are free to make use of all available, lawful means to advocate for a different course of action as long as you are doing it in a Christian way (including on social media). We are told to honor the emperor, but that doesn’t mean we are forbidden from respectfully and openly disagreeing with his public policies. Just as a wife can honor her husband while respectfully and openly disagreeing with him about something, so a citizen in our country can respectfully disagree with public policy as long as your goal is to do so in a godly way and with a submissive spirit.

Is it a poor testimony for Christ when Christians go to the capitol for a day of prayer? 

Christians are divided on this one. My personal inclination is that assembling in defiance of the shelter in place order communicates an unhelpful (and probably unintended) message to the outside world. Namely that we think we are above the law and that the call to sacrificially love our weaker neighbors by the temporary surrender of some of our freedom is something we are unwilling to do. Obviously that is not what those gathering for prayer are intending to communicate, but that is the perception from some of my non-Christian friends. That being said, there are wise, godly people who have landed on different answers to this question, and so I have been unwilling to draw the line in either direction. My pastoral concern for our church is that we would have a Romans 14 disposition towards each other on this issue, which is to each be convinced in our own conscience that we are honoring the Lord with our choices. Sorry, I know that is not a clear answer but I am reticent to go further than God’s Word does.

I think this touches all of your questions. Let me know if I missed anything. Again, I so appreciate your heart to honor Christ in this time and even to reach out and ask. I’m encouraged by your love for God and look forward to worshipping together again soon!

The Lord bless and keep you!

Joshua

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