He stood up to pharisees and officials and was ultimately killed for it. His disciples broke laws to share the gospel with Jews and Gentiles alike. Throughout the entire history of the church, there is a theme of civil disobedience for the sake of worshiping God and spreading the Gospel. Right now in China, Christians are huddling in basements, worshiping silently in fear of the authorities. There are house churches spreading like wildfire throughout the Middle East and Africa, all of which are illegal and in constant jeopardy of being shut down and persecuted by the government.
True Christianity, the upside down kingdom of God, is by nature contrary to the kingdoms of the world. Being a Christian, abandoning everything and following Jesus, is illegal.
At the same time, Paul in Rom 13 says that we are to submit ourselves to the authorities of this world. Peter as well, in 1 Peter 2 commands followers to be subject to human institutions. Both writers state very explicitly that human authorities are put in place by God to carry out his will for justice and that Christians ought to be law-followers. (Both of these apostles were killed by the government for insubordination and disobeying the laws of the land).
So how can both of these things be true about the Christian experience? It would seem that the bible teaches that we should both submit to authorities and transgress them.
In light of last weeks Question of the week on immigration, and the inevitable discussion of Rom 13 in the debate, I wanted to follow up with lasts week discussion with a more fundamental discussion on the Christians relationship with civil disobedience. Especially in light of Martin Luther King day earlier this week, I feel like this discussion is appropriate. So here is the question: When Should Christians Not Obey?
We live in a country with a lot of freedoms and a government that enforces justice, better than many countries in the world. But that doesn’t mean that the government is perfect and all laws are just. So how should Christians respond?
I look forward to hearing what you all have to say. After hearing everyone’s input and thinking it over myself this week, I will be writing a follow up to the question. Ian Danley, in his guest post last week does address this issue some, so check that out as you think it through.