.”..be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”Daniel 3:18
“But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.”Acts 5:29
The Kingdom of God reigns above any government of mankind. Earthly rule protects the believer from the avarice, greed, and violence of the worldly person who has no respect for God’s laws. The Christian is to be subject to those laws. However, when man’s laws contradict or oppose God’s laws, we must refuse to obey the government. Today, some engage in violent opposition to the government at the drop of a hat. They wrap themselves in the banner of the divine while breaking civil laws. We must not do likewise. The decision to engage in civil disobedience must come only after a careful study of the Bible.
Civil disobedience did not begin in the 1950s and 1960s with the civil rights movement or the anti-war protest movement. The two verses above show that resisting the authority of the state has been established for a very long time. For us, we must take care to avoid a flippant appeal to disobedience. I offer three ideas to consider.
Civil Disobedience Requires the most Extreme Circumstances
God’s people have often found themselves in dire straits. They were attacked by other nations (Judges 4:2; 6:1; 10:7 et al.), enslaved (2 Kings 25), opposed by religious leaders (Acts 4:1-3), arrested and executed by kings (Acts 12:1-3) and generally persecuted by authorities (Hebrews 11:32-40). Despite all the opposition, civil disobedience was uncommon.
In Daniel 3, the king demanded that the Hebrews worship his pagan god. In Acts 5, the religious leaders demanded the apostles to stop preaching the gospel. In the USA, the Constitution constrains the government from issuing such orders. The time may come when such restraint is removed, but for now, we are blessed. Only an extraordinary assault on our faith would justify lawless opposition.
Civil Disobedience Is a Last Resort
Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did not initiate a confrontation. It arose as a response to their obedience to God. Obedience drove their actions, not publicity. Had the rulers left them alone, there would have been no clash. History records that when Rome tried to prevent Christians from worshipping, they assembled in hiding.
Another blessing of our nation is the right to petition the government for redress (relief) from burdensome rules. Last week, a federal judge slammed the door on attempts by New York to single out houses of worship for restrictions during the health crisis. Often, our complaints are better addressed in venues other than the media or the street.
Only after using venues of appeal and discussion may the Christian resort to civil disobedience. It is a tactic of last resort.
Civil Disobedience Demands Careful Consultation with the Lord
Before a person willingly breaks the law under God’s banner, he had best be sure his actions have divine approval. Daniel and the apostles were inspired. They received truth directly from on high. We do not. However, we have the inspired word of God that guides us into all truth (John 16:13; 2 Peter 1:19-21). How foolish to charge into lawbreaking without a knowledge of the word of God. So, the one planning disobedience does so only after an intense study and researching of God’s word.
Equally important is a prayerful spirit. Just as Bible study must be intense, our prayers must be fervent. Only then, after prayer and study, may we solemnly engage the exceptional act of disobedience. That prayer and study must be motivated by a desire to know truth. Approaching the Scriptures or bowing in prayer with our minds already made up is dangerous. We must seek to know the will of the Lord, not to find confirmation of our ideas.
Let us earnestly seek to be subject to the laws of government while being faithful to the real king, Jesus!
What are your thoughts? Please comment.