It is hard to believe our national lockdown has been going on for only a few weeks. It seems like months! How about you? How many of us can remember the innocence of Valentine's Day when things seemed "normal" and we were going about everyday life buying flowers and cards for loved ones. Since then, it is not just the lockdown that has made this a difficult time. The really difficult part of this time has been watching what has been happening to our wonderful nation. At the heart of that concern is being shocked by a variety of extreme measures being taken against American citizens during the pandemic. These measures range from being fined, arrested and even jailed for just taking a walk, simply going to dinner with a family member, trying to work in some way to feed your family or listening to a sermon at a local church in your car. The list is long and growing. Such government actions have raised serious questions about whether we are even living in America anymore. Sadly, all these unfolding measures, designed to keep us "safe", are more like something from an emerging totalitarian state we might have read about in high school or seen in an old war movie about Nazi Germany. Surely none of this can be happening in the "land of the free and the home of the brave", as the Star-Spangled Banner says so wonderfully at its close?
Now the most shocking thing about what is happening to America is that every single action being taken by a variety of government leaders is seen by them as "good", "necessary" and "essential" to keeping us "safe". Such actions seemingly cannot be questioned because they are for the public good, right? And while the Constitution and Bill of Rights are under assault like never before, everyone making these draconian decisions sees themselves as faithful servants protecting and caring for the public. Virtually all these leaders apparently remain convinced of their mission from God, the government or themselves to "save us" from ourselves.
How did we get here? What is really happening to America? How do we explain such behaviors and actions being morally justified by our leaders in the face of the Constitution and our history as a freedom loving people? Why are some of these officials so smug and self-righteous when they are being challenged by a large number of citizens every day? The reason why all these questions are so vexing to us is because they are NOT political questions. Ultimately, everything going on right now is spiritual in nature and is rooted and grounded in sin and the pride that lies in the hearts of all of us. Until we begin to understand that spiritual reason, we won't have the ability to discern the real issues or to make sense of where we are in America today, and where this is going in the future.
An excellent example of understanding this issue is seen by taking a little closer look at abortion here in Michigan. Michigan has experienced some of the most restrictive and punitive laws regarding our freedoms under the Constitution of anywhere in the nation. Michiganders have been shut down in our schools, churches, businesses, health care system and our daily social discourse with family and friends under penalty of law. And yet, amidst our current lockdown, Governor Gretchen Whitmer has declared that having access to an abortion at any time is a guaranteed, "essential" right that is necessary to maintaining a woman's life. Governor Whitmer recently stated,
"A woman's health care, her whole future, her ability to decide if and when she starts a family is not an election, it is a fundamental to her life," she added. "It is life-sustaining, and it's something that government should not be getting in the middle of."
But if we take a step back for a moment and look at some important statistics, the real spiritual issues can be seen and understood in a more objective way. To date in Michigan, 4135 people have died of Covid-19 and our entire state has largely been shut down by the Governor's executive order because it was seen as being "essential" to protecting life. In 2018, as an example, there were 26,716 abortions performed in Michigan. These abortions, then and now, according to Governor Whitmer, are "life sustaining" and should continue every day during the pandemic no matter what other restrictions on our lives are going on all around us every day. Amidst this shocking view of what constitutes something being "life sustaining", no one has suggested that the Governor is in the midst of a spiritual or moral crisis about her views and values regarding her calling and mission to protect life. No, just the opposite is the case. The Michigan governor strongly declares in all her public statements and behaviors that she is on a constitutionally defined, clear, righteous and moral mission to "save" the lives of all of us.
It turns out that the reason why all this chaos is currently going on is because it is the ultimate witness to what has already gone on before. You see the greatest corruption of authority against freedom and life took place when the Lord Jesus Christ, the Author of life and true freedom, was crucified by the authorities in His day. When our Lord was arrested and turned over to the Roman authorities by the religious leadership, they ALL saw themselves as doing God a favor. When our Lord was crucified, those watching Him die thought they were faithful servants of the God. When our Lord was taken down from the cross and placed in a tomb, these leaders celebrated the Passover meal with family and friends. Not a single person lost any sleep that night. No, they made the hard decisions that had to be made to protect the public from Jesus, His disciples and His blasphemous teachings that had challenged their leadership and corrupted view of the law.
Just before the cross, our Lord made a prophecy about same these issues and what would happen to His people into the future. In John 16:1-4 our Lord told His people,
All this I have told you so that you will not fall away. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. I have told you this, so that when their time comes you will remember that I warned you about them. I did not tell you this from the beginning because I was with you.
Our Lord told the disciples that they would be persecuted and pushed out of their culture by the authorities of their day. They would even one future day be put to death and the people doing it would think they were servants for God. The reason for this behavior was the simple fact that these officials and leaders didn't know anything about the Lord. Instead, they had rejected such truths in order to justify themselves. For them, the power they held and used had nothing to do with the Lord and/or the public's best interests. The real issue lie in using their power and control to meet their own needs.
Perhaps the best example of this issue was seen when the religious authorities planned to murder our Lord after He raised Lazarus from the dead. Once this amazing miracle happened they began to fear that the people would follow Jesus and their power might be taken away. They didn't care about the Lord Jesus, Lazarus, the public or the truth. In John 11:47-51 we hear,
Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin. "What are we accomplishing?" they asked. "Here is this man performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation." Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, "You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man dies for the people than that the whole nation perish."
Sadly, the spirit that was displayed by the power brokers of our Lord's day, is related to what is going on all over the nation and world. The people who hold power today are often unwilling to look at how their power is being exercised and under what safeguards and guidelines it should be used. Instead, the real issue that seems to be driving these abuses of power comes from a desire to have authority and power over others. Such issues have been hidden within the fallen human heart since the Garden. Somehow we all listened to the devil's lies that we could be like god and be in control of anything in this world.
The last chapter of this unfolding story we are currently facing right now is yet to come. You might say we are in a dress reheasal for that future day now. The current chaos with our government and the abuse of their power is rapidly leading us toward a growing persecution of our freedoms and eventually the Christian church that will end in the Book of Revelation. Do you see it coming our way? As our Lord predicted in John 16, the government at that time will put Christians to death and think they are servants of God and ultimately doing God a favor. It seems that nothing has changed because the issues here deal with sin and the human heart apart from the Lord.
Finally, may our Lord wake up His people to the hour at hand. May each of us hear the calling of the Lord to stand up and be counted. Our prayers, voices and votes can make a difference to many around us at this dramatic time in American history. So, let's look to the Lord and His redeeming love on the cross for us as the guiding reference point for all we ever do in His Name. Let's share His Gospel with everyone we can with the time remaining.