Many, many years ago, I was a Boy Scout, back when joining the Boy Scouts was still fashionable. One year, I went to a large, regional Boy Scout Jamboree in a semi-wilderness area. Hundreds of scouts were camped around a low mountain, and at the top of the mountain was, of all things, a small swimming pool.
In order to swim in the pool, we had to “check in”, using our name tag which was affixed to a hook on a bulletin board at the entrance to the pool, which had a sign on it saying “OUT”. We checked in by moving our name tag from the “OUT” bulletin board to another bulletin board nearby, which said “IN”. Then when we left the pool, we were required to “check out” by moving our tag from the “IN” board to the “OUT” board. According to the rules, one could not swim in the pool unless he first checked in, and anyone who forgot to check out of the pool at the end of the day would be banned from swimming in the pool for the duration of the summer.
Now, I can barely remember to tie my own shoes, much less fiddle with a name tag on a board, so it took me exactly one day to get banned from the pool because I forgot to check out when I was finished swimming.
I was devastated, because our whole life at the camp revolved around this pool, but now I was banned from it. As I sadly watched everyone else troop off to the pool in the morning, one of the older scouts came over and told me that I should go swimming anyways. He explained that he had ignored the bulletin board from the beginning, as it was a stupid idea–it was meant for a situation where hundreds of people would be swimming in a large lake with little or no supervision, and not for a small pool with lifeguards. Obviously, the lifeguards needed to qualify for some merit badge, and monitoring the bulletin boards was a requirement. At the same time, there were hundreds of scouts in the camp, so it was highly unlikely that the lifeguards would know who I was and would know that I was banned. To them, I was just a tag on a board and a name on a piece of paper.
So, for the next two weeks, I swam every day without checking in or out, and no one noticed, and no one cared.
For the first time in my life, I was off the grid.
Funny thing about being off the grid: The rules don’t apply to you. I no longer had to check in or out like the other campers, even though I swam in the same pool.
Illegal immigrants in the US are an example of people living off the grid. As is clearly evident, the normal rules of life (indeed, not just rules, but laws) do not apply to them. And, while they undoubtedly suffer some hardship from living off the grid, they also enjoy privileges that other, law-abiding immigrants do not have. One distinct privilege they have is that they do not have to go through the process of spending years gathering and submitting forms so they can jump through the myriad of legal and bureaucratic hoops in order to come to the US and remain in the country, only to have their application denied by some nameless troll working in an office.
When I was younger, I would have never advocated for anyone to live like this, and even today I am hesitant to do so as we should be law-abiding, and we should be striving to live at peace with our government and the people around us.
However, what if the government is by its very nature lawless, or what if it is lawful in many ways, but lawless in the way it seeks to suppress, control, or pervert the Christian message and harm God’s people?
In such a case, while a Christian would be well served to obey the law as much as possible, it would be good to also get off the grid, and go underground, so to speak.
Recall what is written in Revelation 13: 15-18:
The second beast was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that the image could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed. It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name.
This calls for wisdom. Let the person who has insight calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. That number is 666.
The number “666” is–among a great many of things–a symbol of failed humanity and lawlessness. It is also a symbol of demonic control over individuals, wherein they are compelled to commit idolatry by their earthly government.
It was a law that everyone had to have this number, showing that they engaged in the state-sponsored blasphemy. And what was the penalty for the law? “They could not buy or sell unless they had the mark.”
In such a situation, a law-abiding person would not only starve to death, but also condemn his family to death through starvation, and would thus be tempted to get the mark.
But there is another way: To get off the grid. That is, to not receive the mark, to not acknowledge the government’s authority, and to find other ways to live that do not involve buying or selling through official legal channels.
It would be difficult to do so under the circumstances described in Revelation. However, if one reads further in Revelation, one will discover that there were people who did not get the number “666”, yet who were nevertheless able to survive.
The trick in such a situation is to never get enrolled in the government system to begin with–to never get on the government radar. After all, if they don’t know that you are in the pool, they can’t kick you out.
To my knowledge, there is not yet–and never has been–a situation on Earth that exactly corresponds with what is talked about in Revelation. But there have been situations that were somewhat analogous.
For example, we have China, a country that is ruled by a a lawless, gangster government that is completely hostile to Christ and his people.
Here is a short aside to show some of the principles at work in such a country.
In China, everyone buys pirated DVDs of films, as legal DVDs are almost non-existent. By way of explanation, the Chinese government only clears about six western films a year to be shown in China. The vast majority of western films are therefore not legally allowed entry into the country, in any form. However, even the few western films that are cleared by the censors are not officially released in China on DVD by the studios because of fears of pirating. This means that nearly every DVD sold in China is effectively pirated, and therefore illegal according to Chinese law. And, even if you find a DVD that claims to be legal (and which will be sold at ten times the regular price), there is no sure way of knowing whether or not it really is legal–it is likely pirated like all of the rest of them.
One day I was at a DVD stall in north China, but I could not find what I was looking for.
“How about this?” the clerk asked, pulling some “yellow” (porn) DVDs from under the counter.
I frowned and said, “No.”
The clerk looked around to see if anyone was looking, and then pulled yet another DVD from under the counter and quickly showed it to me. “And this one?” she asked.
It was a pirated DVD of Campus Crusade’s Jesus film.
And thus the primary point that I am trying to get at: When the government declares something illegal, it effectively loses the ability to regulate it in any way–all it can do is try to suppress it. All DVDs in China are effectively illegal, which means that when it comes to DVDs, the Chinese government has lost the ability to control what is being sold on DVD. People can sell pirated Hollywood films, porn, or even films about Jesus, without any government control at all, because it is all equally illegal.
By the same token, the Chinese government has no control over the church in China.
Or rather, it tries to control the church, but fails.
The method for its attempt to control the church is the propagation of the Three-Self Church, which is the officially sanctioned, legal church in China. As an organ of the state, the official, explicit goal of the Three-Self Church is to lead people to the “truth” of Marxist atheism. Failing this, the government uses the church in an attempt to keep tabs on and control Christians. As the church is administered by the government, the government calls all the shots, and decides what will and will not be allowed when it comes to teachings and policies.
Yet, there is another church in China, the Home Church. This church is illegal, and because it is illegal, it is under no government control at all. It is off the grid. Unlike the Three-Self Church, the Chinese government has no control over Home Church teachings, personnel, or policy, and cannot regulate this church in any way. All it can do is try to suppress it.
My wife for a long time (even before the election of Barack Obama) has been saying that she felt God was telling her that America was going to become more like China. Certainly, we have been seeing this come true before our eyes.
American Christians wring their hands in worry about what will happen to tax exempt status in the light of the recent rulings on homosexual marriage. My point here is to stop wringing your hands: It is time to get off the grid.
Why does your church want or need tax exempt status to begin with? Why have any government registration at all, or any dealings with the government in an official capacity?
I get that most churches collect offerings, have buildings, and a paid staff, and that all of this would appear to open them up to government oversight. But has anyone been listening to what the Holy Spirit has been trying to tell the American church all these years? How many sermons have we all heard about how the church is not the staff or the building, and that focus needs to stop being on church finances and numbers, but on the people? If you really believe all this, then it should be easy to renounce the idea of church incorporation and any kind of government registration or oversight over your church. After all, you don’t have to collect offerings, have buildings, or have a paid staff in order to have a church. At the moment, it is convenient for you to have these things, but in the end all it does is enable the government to meddle in your church’s affairs.
If you really believe that the American government is becoming increasingly lawless and hostile to Christianity, then you need to get your church off the grid, and the sooner the better. Because, if you are never on the government radar to begin with, it will be a lot harder for them to find you when they want to shut you down.