There are people who, for whatever reason, like to try and put the screws to the followers of Christ. “Judge not!“, or, more recently, “Mind your own business!” and then they proceed to make it our business and then get mad when we decide following our faith is more important then condoning their sin.
Many, many laws have been passed recently. Most of them probably wouldn’t pass Constitutional muster – aside from the very liberal (and wrong) rulings SCOTUS has put out recently on the issue – if people actually understood what our Founding Fathers actually attempted to do (and they could if they’d intelligently read the Federalist Papers and Anti-Federalist Papers). Unfortunately, like in ancient Rome, such attention to detail is inconvenient when you are trying to pave the way for unbridled hedonism. When your goal is to clear a path for unbridled amounts of self- and instant-gratification regardless of the consequences, such details and truths are highly and excessively inconvenient. Older, more conservative thinking is labeled as out-dated, and when that doesn’t work, it becomes labeled as hate.
Except, of course, when it comes to trying to put the screws to Christians. Of course non-believers will never understand, not fully. They have not an understanding of the book they try to throw back in our face, and unfortunately not many Christians have enough knowledge, wisdom, or love to be able to correct those who try to use our own faith to control us in such deceptive manners. Unfortunately, I’ve had my own issues, not from unbelievers but from a Brother, no less, dealing with issues of obeying the government and how exactly that applies to us. Unfortunately I didn’t handle the situation very well. I pray, though, that this little devotional, shared by a Sister I know on Facebook.
It is, however, a bit lacking. Not in understanding of the issue, the author is obviously a mature individual and has studied this out quite a bit, but because I feel he leaves out some critical pieces of Scripture from his teaching. Following in the blockquote is the devotional intact, without commentary from myself, followed by my own addition to it. My prayer is for my fellow Brothers and Sisters to come to a deeper understanding of this issue. You cannot help but grow from truth, and this is nothing but the truth.
Acts 4:1–22 “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (vv. 19–20).
Christian ethicists have long debated whether or not it is ever legitimate for believers to defy the state. This is understandable since there are many passages, such as Romans 13:1–7, that seem to encourage submission to the ruling authorities no matter what. Paul, however, was not reflecting any sort of naiveté when he instructed us to submit to the earthly authorities. After all, as one who was often imprisoned for preaching the Gospel, he well knew that the state could very easily become an instrument of evil. His commands to obey the state, as with all of the biblical injunctions to submit to the government, carry with them the assumption that our rulers are, broadly speaking, fulfilling the task that God has given them to preserve life and protect the right to private property.
Yet when the state forbids us to do something the Lord commands or commands us to do something He forbids, believers must not submit to the decrees of the authorities. Christians are never given the license to sin, nor are they permitted to abandon the dictates of God in order to obey the orders of other human beings. Christ alone has ultimate authority, as the apostles demonstrate in today’s passage. Given the chance to preserve their freedom and safety at the cost of preaching Jesus to sinners, Peter and John choose to obey the Great Commission (Acts 4:19–20; see Matt. 28:18–20). Make no mistake, they are engaging in an act of civil disobedience, but they are doing so in order to be faithful to the Lord. Such circumstances alone can justify such actions.
The principle that we may disobey the state if it forbids what God commands or commands what He forbids is easy to learn, but difficult to apply. The state will sometimes engage in unfair practices that we must follow because we cannot make the case that such practices violate Scripture. For example, the so-called “progressive” taxation that exists presently in the United States may be unjust, but we have no right to refuse to pay taxes (Rom. 13:7).
Our default position as Christians is to bend over backward to be model citizens. But when the demands of God’s kingdom directly contradict the demands of the kingdom of men, the mandates of our heavenly citizenship must win.
Coram deo: Living before the face of God
Because of our fallen nature, it would be easy to twist the principle for Christian civil disobedience enumerated in today’s study into an excuse to avoid the Bible’s call that we submit to the government. Indeed, our fallen nature makes us prone to find any loophole we can in God’s law in order to render something less than true obedience. Beware of this tendency in your heart, but also remember that your allegiance belongs ultimately to Christ, not to the state.
For further study:
The Bible in a year:
For the weekend:
INTO the WORD daily Bible studies from TableTalk Magazine, Matthew Studies. Copyright © 2008 by Ligonier Ministries.
I think for further study one need look no further then Daniel chapters 1 through 7. It is a classic case study in defying the authority of men in order to be in submission to the Lord. In Daniel, three clear cases are presented.
Three Case Studies for Believers to Disobey Government
- With the introduction of Daniel we see the very first act of civil disobedience: Daniel and the three Hebrew children purpose within their hearts not to defile themselves by eating food offered to idols (Daniel 1:8). Because of this, and because of their faithfulness in the Lord, an alternative is provided (eating nothing but vegetables) for the entire period of their training at the king’s court. They even propose a test run in which they agree to eat the idol-offered food if they suffer in health or looks because of their choice. Because we can read ahead, we know the outcome is assured and those 4 become the king’s top students and the best looking of the men selected. (vv. 15-21)
- Later on, in Daniel 3, the king creates an image of gold and Daniel and his friends are put into an awkward position, again (4-12):
Submit to the king of Babylon or submit to the Lord. This time it is an act of worship whenever music sounds. The jealous court officers want to get Daniel’s buddies to dance/worship to a golden idol (not sure where Daniel is during this, but one would assume he didn’t obey, either). Once again they disobey, and the king calls them on it (vv 13-15). Now, they are facing what some may see as a lose-lose situation: Worship the golden idol and sin, or don’t sin and be thrown into a furnace of fire. They tactfully tell the king that they cannot and will not sin against the Lord, whether or not He keeps them safe from repercussions (vv 16-18). Into the furnace they go, only to dance with the pre-incarnate Christ in full view of all present. Not only did they not receive any harm from the immense fire (one so hot several of the king’s loyal men died in the process of putting the three Hebrew children in the furnace) they also did not smell like smoke or have a single hair singed (vv 19-27).
- One final time, this time in chapter 6, Daniel’s counterparts were out to get him. They saw how blessed he was, and they attributed it rightly to his obedience to the Lord. They also saw the favor he curried with the king and it must of stuck in their craw something awful (vv 1-5). This time they had what they thought was an iron-clad, fool-proof way to get rid of Daniel and once and for all get the recognition they thought they should have.
They got the king to declare a law, according to the custom of the Mede’s and the Persians, with no loopholes. The law was an onerous one, too (vv 6-9):
For 30 days one could only worship the king, if they worshiped or petitioned anyone – or any God – else than Darius (king of the Chaldeans at the time), they were to be put to death by being throwin into the lion’s den, no loopholes. They knew Daniel would violate the law,they just had to catch him. Since Daniel made no effort to conceal himself or his worship of the Lord, this was fairly easy. Daniel, of course, offered no resistance. He knew he had broken the law but he also knew not doing so would have brought him into sin and soiled his relationship with the Lord. He was willing to die for his faith (v 10).
Once again, the Lord protected him and this time the king – who had enough of the other’s scheming, had them thrown to the lions (whom, according to scripture, ate very well that day). There is no doubt in my mind – according to the account of Daniel – that the king became a believer that day (a tertiary thing in this discussion, but worth mentioning) (vv. 11-28).
Disobedience to those in authority over us comes in a very, very narrow line. As the devotional mentions above, do not twist Scripture and the laws of man to find reasons not to obey the laws of man. Government and those in authority over us are there as the Lord’s ministers for justice. Do good – as Daniel and his three Hebrew friends did – and you have nothing to worry about. Remember, though, when man’s laws try to get you to sin against the Lord, your allegiance should be to Him.