Christians obeying the government is a topic that requires specific instruction from God because it is a topic in which the instruction varies based on the situation.
The default beginning position for all Christians in wondering when to obey the laws and instructions from their government is “Obey”. Romans 13:1-7 touches on the topic of what the purpose of government is, what their rights in executing justice are, and what your duties regarding taxes are. But it starts with the overarching commandment and explanation:
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.Romans 13:1-2 (ESV)
In other words, a Christian’s first thought regarding to a government instruction is “Thank you, I see it as God’s will for me. I’m going to comply and obey.”
“But”, some are too quick to exclaim, “what if the government requires of us to disobey God?!!!”. That too is addressed in Scripture, but first make sure you are not just using that to justify non-submissive spirit towards a government which you feel is in some ways not worthy of your submission. Romans 13 was written to Christians living in the capital city of a government which was overtly pagan, non-Christian, and not even influenced by God-fearing principles. When the government, irrespective of how well they fulfil their duties in Romans 13, requires something that is not clearly sinful, then submit, and do not resist, for those who resist will incur judgment from God if not also from the government. As Christians, we are to be those known for “submitting to our God by submitting to our government”.
The famous incident in which Christians determined not to obey their government is in Acts 5. After preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Apostles where imprisoned and strictly forbidden to teach in Jesus’ name. After receiving their punishment, and being released supernaturally, the Apostles answered “We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29). The example they give us is that since government is appointed by God, it is always first our fear of the Lord that defines our response to government instructions. If government requires something that directly opposes a clear commandment from our Lord, then we “obey God rather than men”. That might be a common occurrence among the persecuted believers, but it is truly an exception to the overarching commandment of “submit to your God by submitting to your government”.
This is why, amidst a pandemic, we submit to the government’s regulations on hygiene, medical precautions, and public gatherings. We do so because we fear the Lord and submit to our government (Rom 13:1-2), and we do so because we love the Lord and our neighbour (Luk 10:27).
Even the restrictions on meeting with the saints are to be followed in the case of medical quarantines. These government restrictions are not opposing Christians, but seeking their medical well-being (Rom 13:3). Also, the command to meet with the saints is not commanded with the clarity and precision that we might perhaps think. The prohibition on neglecting the gathering of the saints is aimed at those with a habit of doing so and is not defined in terms of every seventh day, or some other measurable standard (Heb 10:24-25). All of Hebrews 10 is concerned about a true heart of worship more than a law-keeping basis for worship. The immature might think going to church every seventh day makes them acceptable to God, but the mature know that there are many ways to stir one another up to love and good works, especially in times like these, without necessarily meeting in gatherings over the government-defined limits.
Christians obey their governments. The only exception would be a clear command from the government that directly opposes a clear command from God. For all else we submit and as necessarily invent submissive alternatives to demonstrate our love to one another and to minister to the world around us.
So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faithGalatians 6:10 (ESV)