It is obvious that we live in a day where we hate authority. We hate the authority of the church, of parents, and of school teachers. We hate the authority of the civil magistrate and law enforcement. (Which is why I find it so strange to see people embracing socialism, as if you can have “free stuff” without force.) With that in mind, here is a verse we should all remember:
Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.
I had always thought of this as applying to the church, but I never thought of it as applying to the government until recently. But Scripture does teach in Romans 13 that the state is given authority by God and that they are to watch over the people with the authority God has given them. So as the civil magistrate is working to stop the spread of the coronavirus (or COVID-19) multiple orders have been issues to limit our freedom of assembly. It is wise to adopt two postures on this, one for the long term and one for the short term.
Obviously, quarantine and “social distancing” mandates can be abused, and we are right to be suspicious of them. But we should be humble and submit to reasonable orders issued by the state to prevent the spread of a virus. After all, many places in Scripture tell us to obey the authorities God has placed over is. 1 Peter 2:17 says we should “honor the king.”
This is done not only out of respect for God, but out of love for our neighbors. Even if we are personally in a low-risk group, we need to protect those who are at risk of a more serious reaction by trying not to be a carrier for the virus. But we have seen many times in human history where these kinds of measures are abused. “Emergency” authority grabbed by the state becomes the new normal, and government is reluctant to give back the power it has gained in time of crisis. This is not the end of the world.
At some point, the coronavirus will be contained, we will have a vaccine, and we are already seeing some people developing a natural immunity. When that happens, we should demand that the government give up its emergency powers. We must recognize that “emergency” powers used now can be used to justify more extreme actions, from invasions of privacy to strictly limiting the First Amendment right to peaceably assemble and freedom of religion.
All mankind is cursed by our sin nature. Even when the state is acting in our interest, that state will always be run by men and women corrupted by sin. We should be very careful about giving sinful men unlimited power and authority and we must demand that the rule of law is followed. The potential for abuse of power is much more dangerous to our health and safety in the long term than any respiratory virus or pandemic.