Belief, Practice and Pandemic Powers
As I mentioned in my message from last Sunday morning, our church, and other churches in Victoria, are once again facing an immediate and serious threat to the free practice and expression of our faith in the Lord Jesus.
Firstly, the State Government has introduced a Bill into Parliament to change the Equal Opportunity Act 2010, specifically section 82A. These amendments are directly targeted at churches, Christian schools, and other faith-based organisations. They make a separation between belief and practice, as if that were possible. It does this by essentially stating that employees of churches, including pastors etc, and faith-based organisations, may hold to the religious beliefs of the organisation, but they cannot legally be bound to a certain standard of practice that would be expected from such beliefs.
Such an idea, that someone can have faith in Jesus and yet live a life contrary to Scripture, is absurd and demonic. Jesus said, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46). Jesus goes on to say that such a life will come to ruin (6:49). In Matthew 23 Jesus pronounces seven woes upon the religious leaders for their hypocrisy, for they were not living in accordance with the nature of YHWH in whom they said they believed. We are told, even the demons have a superior “faith” than such a person, for they “believe – and shudder!” (James 2:19). No! Faith separated from conduct is not faith at all, since faith without works is dead (James 2:26).
We must recognise that what Christ achieved through His death and resurrection must never be limited to the gift of eternal life only, but it includes all that pertains to life and godliness (2 Pet 1:3), “without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb 12:14).
This Bill is a gross overreach of the government into the church of Christ. I understand it will be voted on in the Lower House next week, with debate in the Upper House at the end of this month. Please pray that this Bill will not be passed and consider contacting your local MPs to object to such an attack upon Christ’s church and Christian schools. To assist you to send your objection, a dedicated website has been established here.
Secondly, to best fight the Covid-19 virus the Victorian Parliament voted to extend the Declaration of State of Emergency. These powers can run for a maximum of 12 months, and will finish on 15 December 2021. Yet, as we know, it is easy to take power, but it is often harder to give that power up. Therefore, a new bill has been brought to the parliament that, if passed, will come into effect on 16 Dec and give the government unlimited, unreviewable power. This bill has already been passed by the Legislative Assembly (Lower House) and will be debated in the Legislative Council (Upper House) on the 16-18 Nov, after which a vote will be made.
Why the concern? The State Government has a track record of creating policy that is against Christianity and the church. These new “Pandemic Powers” would give the Premier and the Health Minister unlimited authority to make “pandemic orders” that are targeted toward any sections of the community and that would further encroach on our ability to live out our Christian faith together.
I provide these pressing concerns to you as a call to prayer and in no way as a means to push a particular political party. As Bonhoeffer expressed, we desire the state to be the state as God has purposed. Pray that the government would rule under the authority granted to it by God and within the instituted boundaries that would allow for the flourishing of the gospel and the free practice of our faith in Christ. Pray that we would not be given over to a spirit of fear and despair, but rather, that we would continue to look to our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, as He works in and through us. Pray for each other and the elders as we seek to best navigate the growing challenges before us. And remember: Christ is our ultimate hope and comfort in life and death. Not government. Not health. Not anything. Just Jesus! The Author, Perfecter, and Finisher of our faith.