By Jesse Jost
Six months ago, few of us would have believed the reports coming from the future. We seemingly have entered a police state overnight. We have lost the freedom to travel and assemble. We face fines for simple activities. There is talk of increased military presence in our towns to enforce lockdown. And some communities have set up hot lines where we can report our neighbour’s violations. We’re also hearing about tracking devices and mandatory health checks.
For the most part we have accepted these shocking conditions willingly because we understand we are in a pandemic, and sacrifices must be made to protect the vulnerable.
However, I am hearing more and more rumblings from some quarters that we have relinquished our freedoms too easily, that human rights surrendered to the government in times of crisis are not willingly handed back when the crisis is over.
It’s haunting to read what life was like under communist or fascist dictatorships. I’ve wondered how long we in North America could hang on to our freedom and whether we might end up in a state like Nazi Germany, or Communist Russia.
How should we as followers of Jesus respond as we see our freedoms being taken away? I want to give you four actions you can take that will go a long way toward preserving our liberty.
1: Stay Surrendered to Jesus’s Authority
Throughout history, limited government has only ever worked with a people who are self-governed. We don’t get political freedom simply because of a political idea. We get freedom because of changed hearts. Peter calls us, not to a freedom to do whatever we want, but to liberty as bondservants of God. (1 Peter 2:13-17)
Jesus came to set at liberty those who are oppressed. But you don’t hear him calling us to overthrow corrupt governments or asking us to become political activists. What Jesus calls us to is to daily confess to God, “Your will be done.” We cannot truly be free politically until we are free from slavery to our sinful impulses.
I think there is a place for fighting for human rights and political activism. But we must never lose the fight to keep Jesus as Lord of our lives. Political revolution that is not founded in Christian love and submission to God’s authority will only bring a change of tyranny.
History’s worst dictators and violators of human rights came to power by promising freedom from the current oppressors. But once in power, the new leaders became more oppressive than the old regimes they overthrew.
It is only when the leaders of a nation acknowledge that there is a law higher than themselves can real freedom be maintained.
If you want to be a freedom fighter, make sure Jesus is your master in every area of your life. Otherwise the power that you gain will corrupt you and make you the oppressor.
2. Obey the law wherever you can.
If Jesus is our Lord we will respect his teaching on authority. Peter gives us a firm command in 1 Peter chapter 2:
”13 Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, 14 or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.“
We are called to show the world that, when Jesus is our master, love for our fellow man is our goal. Christians should be known more for their compassion and service to the needy, than for political activism and ammo hoarding.
As Jesus changes our hearts, all life becomes precious to us regardless of race or creed. We need to demonstrate that we care about the common good and are willing to comply with the laws of the land wherever we can.
Our primary allegiance is to Jesus and that will inevitably cause a clash when the laws of the land prevent us from obeying Jesus. There may be a time for civil disobedience, but let’s make sure it’s truly for the Gospel, and not for something boneheaded, like the right to spread germs. Let the world see that we are taking every precaution to protect the vulnerable – that we are washing our hands and respecting quarantines.
3. Pray for our leaders.
Paul commands that “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.” (1 Tim 2:1-2)
We are also told, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, like rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.” (Prov 21:1)
These New Testament commands to submit to authority and to thank God for our leaders were given in a time when leaders were corrupt and despicable and would have scoffed at the idea of human rights.
We may groan and roll our eyes at the actions of our leaders. I’m sure at some level they are corrupt and have political agendas that may end up harmful. But it is not an accident that we have the leaders we do right now. God has allowed them to be there for his purposes.
Our job is not to mock them, but to pray diligently for them. They are under tremendous pressure and strain. We are also commanded to thank God for them. Before you share a mocking meme about your country’s leaders, ask yourself if you have prayed for them today. Ask that God would open their eyes and reveal His truth to them. Then write a thank you letter to them even if they are from a different political party.
4. Spread hope rather than fear.
This last step is critical right now. In 1918, as the Spanish flu decimated cities and communities and ended up killing 50-100 million world wide, the bigger disrupter to society was fear, not the flu. People stopped coming to work and many refused pleas to help at the hospital or in emergency relief efforts.
When we are in the grip of fear, self-preservation becomes our only goal. We become selfish creatures who cannot cooperate with others. A free society needs to be based on trust and cooperation.
When fear reigns, society will absolutely break down as people defy whatever laws are necessary for them to survive. Fear creates a vicious cycle of panic buying and hoarding, and then when essential goods and medicines are not available, desperation sets in and people become lawless animals in their quest to get the needed goods.
I believe the biggest threat to our freedom today is fear. So if you value our freedoms, ask yourself, “Is what I’m sharing on social media going to produce fear or hope?” Articles, videos, and memes about deep state, corrupt agendas, or dire economic forecasts are only stirring up fear and leading us one step closer to societal chaos. Creating an environment of fear through your theories is one sure way to usher in the very police state you are afraid of.
Jesus warns us not to worry about tomorrow. The future is all unknowns and Satan loves to take that blank space and paint pictures of terror to torment us. It doesn’t help that stories that produce fear become the most shared and also bring news agencies the most revenue.
Replacing a culture of fear with a culture of hope and gratitude is one of the most important steps you can take to fight for our freedoms. Don’t waste time on economic forecasts, or pandemic projections. There are too many unknown factors to take these predictions seriously.
Will we enter a great depression? Who knows? When the quarantine is lifted, the demand for all the goods and necessities is going to be huge. I’m expecting a huge boom with plenty of job opportunities. Our infrastructure is still in place: the roads and communication lines haven’t been bombed out. As long as the government lets us have a free market and we haven’t been paralyzed by fear, our economy should be fine.
Is this virus going to go on for months? Is there going to be a lethal second and third wave? It might happen. It might also mutate to become less lethal. The pandemic curves often drop like a cliff, disappearing faster than they came. Who knows what vaccines we might find or helpful drugs? We just don’t know. But God does.
Are our governments going to be addicted to the sweeping powers they have seized these last couple months? I don’t know. But I disagree with the argument that once freedoms are lost, they are lost for good.
Read about World War 1 and the Spanish Flu (here’s a good place to start: The Great Influenza, John M. Barry). You would not believe the human rights violations that happened back then, and the way America turned into a police dictatorship to fight the war and the plague. It didn’t last.
Freedoms came back. I believe that if we stay surrendered to Jesus, pray for our leaders, and spread hope, our freedoms will come back as well. But if even in they don’t, nothing human leaders can do can rob us the freedom and hope we have in Jesus. The final victory has already been won. Eventually, we will live in new heavens and a new earth filled with peace, joy, and the knowledge of God.