Government and public worship

With all the government restrictions going on with COVID-19, I was wondering why we are allowing the government to tell us when we can or cannot worship together again in our places of worship (in other words, our physical gatherings) and not just going to worship together anyway? I also understand that God has instituted the government and we should obey them, however, I feel like this is an instance of, "We must obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29).

Many Christians share your frustration. King David expressed the child of God’s joy in worshiping in God’s house: “I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord’” (Psalm 122:1). It is disappointing not to be able to act on that joy because of the present circumstances.

As Christians, we seek to obey God’s law as a way of expressing our gratitude to him for our free and full salvation through Jesus Christ (Romans 12:1; Ephesians 5:2; Colossians 3:17). We use his word faithfully and worship him, as we are able (the Third Commandment). We honor his representatives in government (the Fourth Commandment). We help our neighbor (the Fifth Commandment).

Government mandated restrictions and limitations on public worship bring those three commandments to the forefront. The context of Acts 5:29 is the suppression of the gospel message. As stated by government officials in our country, the current restrictions and limitations on public worship result from concern for people’s physical health and welfare. As disappointing as it is not to have our regular public worship life, we still have the freedom to worship with others through technology and to read our Bibles. In addition, we can honor God by honoring his representatives in government and caring for our neighbor.

There is nothing new with Christians honoring God’s representatives in government during difficult times. There were challenging and dangerous conditions for Christians in the Roman Empire in the first century A.D., and yet consider what God had his apostles write: “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Timothy 2:1-2). “Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor” (1 Peter 2:17). Those are timely words, as are these: “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer” (Romans 12:12).

God speed the day when we think of Psalm 122:1 (“I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’”) and our reaction is: “It’s time! Let’s go!”