It is one thing to picket an abortionist. It is another thing to violate one of the Ten Commandments and bomb the clinic and kill the Doctor and staff.

Civil Disobedience can take many forms.

Think for a moment about our own American Revolution. To our fore-fathers they were freedom fighters seeking liberty. They started a war to throw off what they considered the oppressive tactics of the English government. To the English they were murderous insurrectionists who were willing to kill to get what they wanted. This was civil disobedience turned violent.

The overthrow of the Czar in the Russian revolution in 1917 was violent civil disobedience.

Civil disobedience is sometimes non-violent like Gandhi’s compassionate form of respectful disagreement designed to throw off British rule and eliminate Apartheid. The American Civil Rights Movement is another example of nonviolent civil disobedience.

Timing is important. Laws don’t necessarily have to be broken immediately. Many Christians are working through the legal process to overturn abortion in America. We are getting close. The tide is changing.

A couple of closing thoughts are in order.

First, when believers feel that they should disobey the government, they must be certain that it is not because the government has denied them their rights, but because it has denied them God's rights.

In America we are at liberty to preach Christ, but Christians should obey ordinances prescribing the time and place of preaching. A Christian's liberty is not infringed upon if he/she is forbidden to preach in the street in a loud voice in the middle of the night when people want to sleep.

Second, while many turn to Romans 13:1-7 for the Biblical guidelines for civil disobedience, it is good to know that they are looking in the wrong place. This passage addresses the issue of a rebellious citizen, not a rebellious government.

Let me summarize Paul’s teaching in this passage.

This passage declares that a good Christian is a good citizen. You keep the law of the land. You don't run red lights. You don't evade your income tax. You maintain the speed limit ("The last part of us to get saved is our right foot.").

  • You believe in private property and private rights. You look upon the officer of law as a friend of God, not as a pig. You look upon the judge in the courtroom as the finger of God, that moves under God's authority, not as someone that's out to get you.
  • When one disobeys the law of the land, there should be punishment meted out accordingly. The Bible says, "Be afraid." It may be as mild as a warning ticket from an officer. It may be as severe as capital punishment ("The government does not bear the sword for nothing.")
  • Those who govern us we should respect and honor. They need encouragement and our prayers so they can better care for us. We cheapen the testimony of Christ when we smear the names of men in government with stupid and sick jokes.

We have it pretty good in the United States. We should remember that. Julie and I have travelled and taught in thirty-five countries and met some of the most remarkable people who chose civil disobedience over personal pleasure and/or survival.

I remember one young man who came to a conference we were leading in Turkey. He had recently come from Iraq where Christianity was outlawed until the overthrow of Sadam. He was brought in by the secret police who demanded that he reveal the names of other Christians in the country. He refused.