The King's Gardeners Ministries

Reverend S. L. Gardner

Spokane, Washington US

- Christian Civil Disobedience? -

Christian Civil Disobedience?
by Bob Sperlazzo
Informed Christian Digest

There are times when the laws of the land will conflict with the laws of God, according to His Word. What should be a Christian's position regarding so-called "Christian civil disobedience"? There are several Scriptural examples that come to mind where the same question arose.

OLD TESTAMENT EXAMPLES

Daniel 6 - King Darius signs an irrevocable document into law, stating that, among other things, anyone who makes a petition to God will be put to death (in the lions' den, in this case). But, verse 10 says, "When Daniel knew that the document was signed, he entered his house...and he continued kneeling on his knees three times a day, praying...as he had been doing previously." And God miraculously delivered him!

Daniel 3 - King Nebuchadnezzar forbids worship of anyone but himself at the sound of his trumpets. But Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, unwilling to compromise, said "Our God...will deliver us out of your hand.... But even if He does not...we are not going to serve your gods... (v. 17-18)." Then the king had them thrown into the intensely hot furnace as a judgement. But Jesus Himself appeared, standing with them in the fire. And they were miraculously delivered from certain death!


Exodus 1 - "The king of Egypt commanded the Hebrew midwives..., 'When you help the Hebrew women in childbirth and observe them on the delivery stool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live'.... The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live." And because the midwives feared God, He rewarded them accordingly (v. 15-21).

NEW TESTAMENT EXAMPLES

Acts 4 - Peter and John are arrested for publicly teaching the people about Jesus and for healing the sick. Then the council of rulers and elders ordered them not to speak or teach anyone in the Name of Jesus. But the disciples confidently told them, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge: for we cannot stop speaking what we have see and heard (v. 19-20)." And they continued to teach publicly.

Acts 5 - After the disciples were arrested again and thrown into jail for preaching publicly and healing in the Name of Jesus, an angel appeared to them and opened the jail during the night, encouraging them to continue to speak to the people about Jesus. But when the rulers found them back in the temple, publicly teaching the people, they had them arrested a third time, and demanded an answer why they were disobeying their strict orders. The answer that Peter and the other disciples gave them is significant -- they said, "We must obey
God rather than men" (v. 29). And every day in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ (v. 42).

I Peter 2 - "It is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God.... If you suffer (punishment) for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps" (v. 19-21). When we are confronted by governmental authorities regarding our disobedience to their conflicting laws with God's commands, we can often expect to be punished. However God honors us and will honor and reward us for our obedience to Him.

RULERS: MINISTERS OF GOD

Romans 13:4 teaches us that God gave us the governing authorities as "a minister of God to you for good" and "a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath upon the one who practices evil." We don't often think of those in secular government as "ministers of God," but they are. And just as those in the Church who are ministers of God must live according to godly principle, so must the secular authorities live by His laws which He has written upon the hearts of men. (Remember that the root of "authority" is "author" -- referring to Christ Himself, the Author of our faith and of all rule.)

Yet, when the governing authorities no longer subject themselves to God's authority, stepping outside of His own commands and precepts according to His Word, we who are believers have a dilemma. We must now choose between obeying unrighteous rulers or obeying God -- the same choices that the early disciples and other godly men and women had.

I Peter 2 also teaches us that kings and governors are sent by God "for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men." (Note that the root of the word "ignorance" is "ignore" -- implying that their foolishness is willful defiance against God.) But, when the kings and governors begin to punish the righteous in defiance against God, a choice of obedience must then be made by all.

"WE MUST OBEY GOD"

The proper focus of the believer under such ungodly rule is never on disobedience, but rather on OBEDIENCE -- "WE MUST OBEY GOD, rather than men." This is the act of a godly people obeying the Author of all rule and authority, God Himself, rather then the twisted laws and commands of ungodly men. Our accountability is always to our God, often by way of those leaders who function under His authority, but never contrary to it. In so doing, we may silence the ignorance of foolish men.

In this way, we are able to keep our perspective of what is right and what is wrong, especially when men contradict God's laws and wrongly legislate against them. And this remains true regardless of where we live or who rules over us, because God's laws are always higher than man's laws. We must always obey God rather than men!

When good men rule, they extend His commandments to us, and we must obey God. When evil men rule, they contradict His commandments, and we must obey God. In every case, the outcome of our allegience is always the same: obedience to God and His commands. And God will deliver us out of the hands of the wicked. And even if he doesn't, as the three patriarchs in Daniel said, we must still obey God.

At the same time, we are called to pray for those who rule over us (I Timothy 2:2) "in order that we may lead a tranquile and quite life in all godliness and dignity." And if we as believers continue to do so, our leaders will more often rule in righteousness, and not make laws and judgements that run counter to the Word and will of God. If we live ungodly lives, how can we expect our leaders to be any different?

Let's raise the standard of righteous living, and pray for our rulers that they will not give us cause to disregard ungodly edicts that run contrary to that which is good and acceptible in the sight of God.

Bob Sperlazzo
Informed Christian Digest
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Copyright 2002 Bob Sperlazzo

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