When to Disobey the Government
- Wednesday, September 25, 2013
At what point do we Christians draw a line in the sand and disobey a law we consider to be immoral or against the laws of God?
Let me make this perfectly clear: Disobedience of civil authority is justified when that authority requires us to disobey God.
"When civil law and God's law are in opposition, the teaching of the Bible sanctions, if not obligates the believer to protest or disobey" (Charles Byre).
Martin Niemöller (January 14, 1892-March 6, 1984) was a German anti-Nazi theologian and Lutheran pastor who was an early supporter of Adolph Hitler’s conservative Nazi regime. His attitude changed dramatically as witnessed the increasing horror and murderous intention of the Nazi hierarchy. He was jailed for his opposition. He is best known for his statement:
First they came for the communists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.
Then they came for the socialists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me.
Martin Niemoeller was arrested in Nazi Germany for preaching the truth. Another minister visited him and remarked that if he would keep silent about certain subjects and respect the government, he would be set free. "And so," continued the visitor, "Why are you in jail?" Niemoeller replied, "Why aren't you in jail?"
This is the story of Peter and the disciples when they were forbidden by the Jewish religious leaders to preach about Jesus.
Having brought the apostles, they made them appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. "We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name," he said. "Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man's blood."
Peter and the other apostles replied: "We must obey God rather than men! (Acts 5:27-6:1).
Continuing to preach was civil disobedience in action.
As I put together so many of the biblical verses that have to do with civil disobedience, (for example, 1 Peter 2:13-14; Titus 3:1; Daniel 3:1-30; and 6:1-28; Exodus 1:15-22; Hebrews 13:17; and Romans 13:1-8 , I quickly conclude that there is no one passage that gives the Biblical position on civil disobedience. We must use wisdom in deciding how to proceed in any and every situation.
One man’s jail cell may be another man’s picket line!
I struggle with the fact that Paul never considers civil disobedience as an option even as he lives under the intolerant, immoral, and wicked rule of Nero.
Jesus says to buy a sword and then never mentions the evils of slavery that plagued His era.
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