Two months ago, days after the Alberta government ordered his church to comply with their authoritarian restrictions on corporate worship, a pastor delivered a sermon titled, “The Time Has Come”.
Unwilling to comply with an order that would prevent the church from essential elements of corporate worship, the pastor said: “the government is forbidding what God requires”. Therefore, the time had come for his church to defy the government.
After the sermon, the church sang, “when faced with trials on every side, we know the outcome is secure; and Christ will have the prize for which he died, an inheritance of nations.”
That Sunday, the government fined the church for violating their orders.
Since then, pastors and churches across Canada have received severe fines and charges for defying the government. Here in Ontario, the government charged my friends at Trinity Bible Chapel for violating the Reopening Ontario Act, and if they’re convicted—the church could receive a 10 million dollar fine and their elders could get an additional 100,000 dollar fine, including possibly up to one year in jail.
Clearly, it’s costly to defy the Canadian government. But these churches knew that. They counted the cost before they violated the government’s orders. After all, they didn’t defy the government during the first restrictions and first lockdowns, so why are they defying the government now?
When the Ontario government closed religious services last March, many churches were concerned about the government infringing on our fundamental freedoms. However, many Christians suggested the lockdowns were justifiable because they were seemingly temporary and non-discriminatory against local churches—especially since many were uncertain about COVID-19’s death rate.
Because of that, churches across Canada didn’t defy the government during the first lockdowns and first wave of restrictions. Even as the government revealed discriminatory and long-term orders, churches maintained patience.
However, 10 months after the first restrictions in March—in the middle of a second lockdown in Ontario and other provinces—there’s no guarantee these authoritarian measures will end within the next 10 months. And that’s why some Christians in Canada believe the time has come for churches to defy the government.
These churches are not thrilled about defying the government. They know civil disobedience is unpopular, especially in Canada. But their primary motivation is obedience to God, not disobedience to the government.
This is because as John MacArthur said: “Christ, not Caesar, is the head of the church”. Our provincial governments do not have greater authority than the king of the universe. How local churches decide to worship and fellowship together is especially Jesus’ jurisdiction, not the government’s.
Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms affirms this. That’s why in his “The Time Has Come” sermon, the Edmonton pastor said, “we aren’t the ones in civil disobedience, the government is.”
These churches are not disobeying God and the Canadian constitution, the provincial governments are. The constitution says:
“The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.
Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms: (a) freedom of conscience and religion; (b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication; (c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and (d) freedom of association.”
Disappointingly, our fundamental rights and freedoms are conditional. Which means they’re apparently not fundamental at all. Nevertheless, according to the constitution, our rights and freedoms can only be infringed on when the government can demonstrate there are justifiable reasons for doing so.
Our provincial governments, however, have failed to prove their authoritarian policies against our freedom of religion—and freedom of peaceful assembly in churches—are justifiable. Especially since the recovery rate for confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada is 97.7%. However, when you factor unconfirmed cases, the recovery rate is apparently 99.7%.
And though many say otherwise, the lockdowns and restrictions are indeed discriminatory against local churches. Our political leaders may not be attempting to persecute the Church, but their intentions are irrelevant—their actions are. By making distinctions between different businesses and different services—particularly, by declaring abortion centres essential and corporate worship unessential, our provincial governments have proven their partiality and discrimination against local churches.
The government claims the restrictions are designed to save lives, and yet, they open abortion centres that murder babies and they close churches that save souls. How is that not discrimination against Jesus and the Church?
Our political leaders do not believe local churches are essential. But we know better. We know they’re essential—not just for us, but for our communities. Local churches are the light of the world in these dark times, and that’s why some churches in Canada are defying the government.
So I hope I’ve given you a clearer picture about why some Canadian pastors are risking their freedoms to defy the government. And I hope you’ll join many of us by praying for and supporting them.