Praying for Peace, with Unbloodied Hands
The Supreme Court Moves on Religious Liberty
Christians know that the wheels of justice should not move slowly (Eccl. 8:11), and yet so often they do. Sometimes the injustices of this cursed world are not made right until the end. Yet God has appointed means for justice now - police, and judges.
The court cases that the COVID lockdown orders have spawned have taken a long time to wind their way through our court systems. Yet some significant movement is now happening. Today the Supreme Court took action in the case of Harvest Chapel in southern California, after having ruled against New York Gov. Cuomo’s severe restrictions. In their New York ruling, Justice Gorsuch wrote, “It is time—past time—to make plain that, while the pandemic poses many grave challenges, there is no world in which the Constitution tolerates color-coded executive edicts that reopen liquor stores and bike shops but shutter churches, synagogues, and mosques.”
You can read more about the New York decision here: https://blackchristiannews.com/2020/11/californias-harvest-rock-church-case-before-supreme-court/
In the Harvest Chapel ruling, the court ordered a lower court to reconsider the church’s case, in light of the New York ruling. For those who agree with Justice Gorsuch’s view on the matter, this is encouraging news.
You can read more about the Harvest Chapel ruling here: https://www.ocregister.com/2020/12/03/u-s-supreme-court-hands-pasadena-churchs-case-on-coronavirus-rules-to-lower-court/
Thus we should continue to pray, along the lines of 1 Timothy 2:1-8:
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. 7 For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.
8 I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling . . .
Our desire as Christians is not to be given special privileges, only because we demand them, or because we think we’re special. Not at all. We only desire that we be given that which is necessary for us to live a peaceful and quiet life, with godliness and dignity, as we seek to testify to the good news of Jesus Christ’s coming, death and resurrection, to all people.
Thus we are also not asking for any legislature or court to bestow a right to us. It is God who is doing this good, saving work - and therefore it is God Who installs “kings and those in high places”, to ensure this “religious freedom”, so that His good will would be done. Religous freedom is not a right that any court grants, or that any government creates out of thin air. If they do, then they can just as well take that freedom away. But the “religious freedom” we seek, from 1 Timothy 2:1-8, is demanded by God, the Creator of All, and the King over all in high places.
In other words, when we pray 1 Timothy 2:1-8, we are praying that our government would do what God has always wanted of it.
And while we are at it, we can pray for Chief Justice John Roberts. In his dissenting opinion on the New York case, he essentially wrote that “we don’t need to rule on this right now”. A pragmatic statement certainly, which some called weasely, but which others called understandable, given the circumstances. I do not know his secret thoughts. But I do know this: it is always a good time to do that which the God of heaven wants of you, Your Honor. As Justice Ginsburg’s casket tells you, no matter how high your place is, there is a higher bench that we will all stand before, sooner or later. Aeons from now, only that Judge’s opinion will matter.
That brings us back to the church. I note that Paul moves quickly from external authorities to internal relationships between Christians (v. 8). As we pray, we must ensure that we do not come before God with hands soiled by angry quarreling over political or medical differences of opinion. It’s not the differences of opinion that soils our hands - it’s the anger and the quarreling. A good Father will not listen to His sons' requests, while He sees blood on their knuckles and His other sons' bloodied noses. God wants justice everywhere, sooner rather than later.
Thus the best way to ensure our hands are unstained with angry quarreling is to be too consumed with the mission of God to think much of ourselves. As always, we are drawn back to the center, to the gospel, as our ballast, our lodestone and our reason for living. The peace we pray for can only be properly consumed by hearts consumed by the news of the man Christ Jesus, given as our ransom, to make us stand pure and secure, before the judgment seat of God.