Godly Civil Disobedience

With so many ungodly pronouncements and acts by the federal government – E.G., the demand that public schools comply with cross-gender bathroom accommodation for confused individuals, the insistence on teaching evolution and prohibitions against creationism, favor given to Islam and disfavor toward Christianity – maybe the time for wide-scale civil disobedience has come.

That is a bold statement, but it cannot be made without noting the character of that civil disobedience which is approved of by God.

Some Christians will reject the very idea of civil disobedience, citing 1 Peter 2:13-14: “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.” But as you can see, that command to submit assumes the authorities punish evil and praise doing well. When authorities do the opposite, we should look in scripture to an example of godly disobedience of that authority.

In Acts 4, when Peter and other apostles began to work miracles and preach the gospel boldly in the streets and marketplaces, the Jewish authorities arrested them. Peter and John responded with, “Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.”

When God released them from prison, they continued preaching undaunted, only to be confronted again by the authorities. Again, the response was simple: “Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.”

When man’s government opposes God’s Word, a Christian’s responsibility is to obey God.

Defiance Without Animosity.

The tone among some people today seems to be anger, resentment and a readiness to pick up weapons. But we have to see in the scriptures what the attitude of the disciples was when they purposefully and boldly disobeyed the Jewish council’s command not to preach in the name of Jesus. They were meek in spirit, ready to accept whatever the consequences of the law might be. In fact, when they were imprisoned, later released by God’s angel and still later beaten for preaching more, they rejoiced “that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.”

Dr. Martin Luther King gave us perhaps the greatest contemporary example of civil disobedience with meekness. He not only preached non-violence, he lived it as he stood against immoral laws.

The American Revolution, on the other hand, was a series of acts of civil disobedience that were not done with meekness, but with natural weapons, and has helped instill in American culture a reliance on guns for self-defense.

Rather than take up a debate on the rightness or wrongness of the Second Amendment, I will merely say that meekness is one of the fruit of the Holy Spirit, and that the spirit of the early disciples facing persecutions was on this order: “others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection.”

We are not sent to fight men; we are sent to fight the devil and our own flesh in our efforts to win men through the love of God.

Peter wrote this to believers: “if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled…For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.” (1 Peter 3:14, 17) Peter knew first-hand what it meant to suffer for the gospel’s sake.

We have always had a need for patience and for all the fruit of the Holy Spirit. They are the character of God that must work in us. If we reject the character of God in standing against ungodliness, how can we win the lost or please God? Knowing that without faith it is impossible to please God, how can we meet ungodliness with natural violence if God does not endorse it under the new covenant? Spiritual warfare is the answer, because our natural enemies are under the control of our spiritual enemy.

As we oppose governmental prohibitions against preaching truth, and as we seek to obey God rather than man, let’s remember to do it in the spirit of humble submission to God, not railing against authorities or fighting them with natural weapons, but being willing, if God wills, to suffer whatever consequences the kingdom of the world might decide to issue. Why? Because great will be our reward in heaven if we act in faith and love.

I encourage you to share this with as many Christians as possible.

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