An Open Letter To The Churches Of New Zealand
On the top of the New Zealand coat of arms there is a crown. On the top of that crown there is a cross. This symbolises that even the monarch is subject to God. That the State is under God has been the traditional position of Western law for centuries, although has been eroded in recent times.
That the State is subject to God comes straight out of scripture. The Father said to the Son, “Ask of Me, and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for Your possession” (Psalm 2:8). The nations were thus given to Jesus. Before giving his final orders to his followers, Jesus said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18). Note that all earthly power “has” (past tense) been given to Jesus. The governments of the world presently exist subject to Christ’s authority. They therefore do not have power to act against Christ’s church.
As the source of all power on earth, Jesus has ordained government for various purposes. Christians are commanded to obey the government (Romans 13:1-11; 1 Peter 2:13-17) and to be model citizens (1 Timothy 2:2). But where government oversteps its rightful role, Christians are to obey God not man (Acts 5:29). There are numerous examples of this throughout scripture and church history.
In choosing to follow God and break civil law where that law contradicts with our faith, Christians not only honour God, but they also witness to the State that it has exceeded its proper role. The act of disobedience is therefore prophetic. It is also redemptive in that it is aimed at having the State recognise it has strayed from its legitimate role and having it repent and return to its proper role. There are numerous examples in human history of the State doing just that. This often involves suffering on the part of the people of God sometimes for some years.
There is scriptural support for the disobedience of laws that restrict our faith to be done publicly. King Darius made a decree that for 30 days no person could pray to any god or man except himself. Now Daniel could have breached this decree by praying silently and in secret. He could have breached the law, practiced his faith, and gotten away with it. But instead, he prayed three times a day with his windows open where he could be seen. He openly defied the king’s decree, a decree that scripture is careful to say he knew about (Daniel 6:10). He was promptly caught. He did not fight or argue, but submitted to the legal consequences of the breach, namely the death penalty. Daniel’s attitude in breaching would surely have been the same as his friends who expressed confidence in God’s ability to save, but even if not were resolute in their refusal to bow to Nebuchadnezzar’s statute (Daniel 3:18). In the end, God miraculously saved both Daniel and his friends from physical harm leading to glory for Himself.
For I believe the first time in my lifetime, the church in New Zealand is presently faced with the choice between obeying God and obeying the government. The COVID-19 Public Health Response (Protection Framework) Order 2021 – the so called traffic light system – limits the ability of the church to freely worship God in accordance with scripture. The Bible commands us to meet together (Hebrews 10:24-25). There is no reference to any numerical limits. Scripture states that we are not to distinguish between people but instead hold the faith without partiality (James 2:1).
At every colour of the traffic light system, there are limits on the number of people allowed to attend a worship service unless vaccine passports are used. But if the vaccine passport system is used, then unvaccinated people must be excluded from the service. So an unvaccinated non-Christian who is seeking the truth must be turned away from a worship service.
Plainly, it is not a sin to be vaccinated. And it is not a sin not to be vaccinated. The matter is clearly one of conscience. As such, we should not quarrel over it or pass judgment on others about this (Romans 14). As a matter of conscience, it would be an abuse of power for a church leader to compel or place undue pressure on those under his or her responsibility to be vaccinated, whatever the medical merits of that action may be.
In passing the traffic light system, the NZ government has overstepped its God ordained bounds by attempting to control the church of Jesus Christ. It is the duty of Christians to obey God rather than man. For a church to comply with the traffic light system is to compromise. If it opts not to use a vaccine passport, then it has to compromise by way of the numerical limits on those who can attend a worship service. If it opts into the system, then it is holding the faith with partiality. Any church complying with the system is obeying man rather than God and needs to repent before the living God.
There is some doubt as to whether the traffic light system’s control of churches is lawful. Freedom of religion is a protected right in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990. A legal challenge is already underway to test the validity of the traffic light system in this regard. It may be that this aspect of the traffic light system is invalid and so any “breach” of it will not have any legal consequences.
However, even if this aspect of the traffic light system is upheld by the courts to be lawful, it remains the duty of Christians to obey God rather than man. To not comply with the traffic light system may involve suffering. There is likely to be some persecution as a result. But, as Martin Luther King Jr observed, “unearned suffering is redemptive”. There is a clear link between suffering and glory.
The COVID-19 pandemic will not last forever. The opportunity to make this stand for Christ will likewise not be around forever. We will have to give an account to Christ Himself for how we have acted. Let us not fail this test. As a people, we must examine our actions and hearts on this matter. In Scotland, Christians were killed for refusing to acknowledge that the King had authority over the church. But yet at the present time, the majority of the churches in New Zealand have bowed the knee to the government. Do we avoid suffering because deep down we would rather have ease and comfort rather than to live a godly life in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 3:12)? Many will need to repent of their compromise and for leading others astray.
May we choose obedience to God over obedience to man, courage over compromise, and faith over fear.
Jeremy Browne, Whangarei
We at Wildfire Australia would like to thank Jeremy for penning this much needed letter. It applies to all nations that have been dealing with government interference in the gathering of Gods’ people.
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I Am Not A Leper
In days gone, societies used to banish lepers forbidding them to mix with normal society. They were to identify themselves and cry ‘unclean, unclean’ to warn people around them.
Lepers could not go to the temple, until the priest had declared them healed and the appropriate sacrifice was made. The priest had to go outside the camp to meet with the leper and perform the sacrifice (Lev 14:2).
In other words, lepers were not welcome in the city, the temple, in fact anywhere. People living in fear would no doubt avoid them whey heard the cry ‘unclean, unclean’.