Double Standards in Effect? Making Sense of the Supreme Court’s Ruling

In the case of Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley v. Steve Sisolak, Governor of Nevada, et al, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the state of Nevada may maintain their mandate toward churches that only 50 may gather per service.

What is the rub? Restaurants and casinos in Nevada all 50% capacity.

Those who ruled in favor of Nevada’s mandate did not offer a rationale since this was an emergency injunction from Calvary Chapel. Yet, the four who dissented (Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Clarence Thomas) offered dissenting remarks.

Justice Samuel Alito in his dissenting remarks noted:

The Constitution guarantees the free exercise of religion. It says nothing about the freedom to play craps or blackjack, to feed tokens into a slot machine, or to engage in any other game of chance. But the Governor of Nevada apparently has different priorities. Claiming virtually unbounded power to restrict constitutional rights during the COVID–19 pandemic, he has issued a directive that severely limits attendance at religious services. A church, synagogue, or mosque, regardless of its size, may not admit more than 50 persons, but casinos and certain other favored facilities may admit 50% of their maximum occupancy—and in the case of gigantic Las Vegas casinos, this means that thousands of patrons are allowed.

Alito captures the frustrations of many Americans who believe many of these rules are arbitrary in nature. And while many want to give our governmental authorities the benefit of the doubt, rulings like these make that most difficult.

The majority of churches have worked to keep their environments safe and clean and according to the codes outlined by local health officials. And, as a pastor, I can say for most of us that we are happy to comply.

What we ask in return is for government to comply with the Constitution in putting the same capacity rules in place in response to freedom speech and freedom of religion. To the cynical mind, restaurants and casinos provide revenue, churches (which by law are tax exempt) do not. Yet, the amount of revenue provided to the state should not contribute to this type of mandate from Nevada.

Philip Meade, Senior Pastor of Graefenburg Baptist Church in Waddy, Kentucky, rightly noted on his blog:

Churches and pastors who ignore the mandates of their government during a pandemic as a means of showing steadfast rebellion against it are reckless. I love the freedom my country allows me, and without the work of the government and its various agencies, there would be no freedom. But thanksgiving for our government and overall trust in their work does not come without limits. When there are missteps, abuse of power, and inconsistencies, Christians have a right and responsibility to say so – and to say it in a way that points people to Jesus, not turn them away from him.

Churches are here to help. We hold to Romans 13 in working with our local officials and will do so in a Christlike manner and not automatically assume nefarious motives. As we care for the souls in our charge as not only imagebearers of God but also children of the Kingdom of God. When rights are threatened and promises that authorities vowed to keep are not kept, we will speak out not for the sake of the rights themselves, but for the souls that those unkempt promises affect.

Eager for Unity Without Masking our Opportunities

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

If our evangelistic fervor for Jesus reached the level of many (even in church) who were for/against wearing a mask, the work of the Kingdom would be so much farther along.

Christians have an opportunity to show where hope (not just their hope, but Hope) lies. Instead, it has brought out a name-calling, faith-questioning, division-causing meltdowns in our camp that will do more harm than good in reaching the ends of the earth with the gospel.

Make your case, please. But when I see my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ disparage one another rather than love one another over a piece of cloth, then is this season bring out to the surface that which lay dormant when times were better?

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Ephesians 4:1‭-‬3 ESV

A key word is “eager.”

Church, in this season, we have our Kingdom work cut out for us. Let us pick our battles biblically. Make your case. Share facts. Share feels, even. But not at the expense of each other.

J.I. Packer: “In His Own Words” (Crossway)

J.I. Packer went to be with Jesus yesterday at the age of 1993. His book “Knowing God” was transformative for me in college. His book on “Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God” helped me understand both and how they worked together. I’m so grateful for his contribution to theology and to my personal and ministerial life.

Here is a short video about his life.

Rest in His peace!

A Problematic Pattern Among Christians: The Lost Art of Engaging Those With Whom We Disagree

A pattern is developing and blooming on social media. This pattern causes fractures among friends, family, and even followers of Christ. The pattern is this:

  1. Some does or says something (either to us or something we observe from someone else) as we go about our day.
  2. We post our feelings regarding this person and their behavior on our social media page.
  3. Others comment to either verify that they’ve seen this behavior in others, or push back as they believe we are being judgmental.

If you’re a celebrity, the pattern has us engaging us on our public social media page or us going on a talk show or news show to berate the words or behavior of another celebrity. Then people react in either agreement or disagreement, from delight to rage.

This pattern is so prevalent that we never question its practice–a practice that is nearly universal.

  1. Our words are intended to build up rather than tear down. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear (Ephesians 4:29)
  2. Insulting someone is an anger-seed planted in your heart that can lead to other issues.“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire: (Matthew 5:21-22). 
  3. This pattern will affect your worship. “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23-24).
  4. You are not demonstrating love of neighbor. ““You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:43-45a).
  5. You are putting an obstacle to the gospel. If we put all of these points together, we will see that our words will not be “seasoned with salt” (Colossians 4:6) that is the gospel. That will affect our worship of God and our love of neighbor (that is, the Great Commandment). Rather than love planted in our heart, hatred is planted in our hearts and, by posting our gripes and grievances, plants hatred and bitterness in the hearts of others as well.

The gospel needs to be contagious, not our bitterness. If we have an issue, let’s talk about that someone to that someone in a private conversation first, even if they are celebrities that seem inaccessible. We need to show everyone what Christianity and the love of Christ is about.