From Sandy K:
When is civil disobedience justifiable for Christians?
To be honest, this has been a controversial topic for years and many learned Bible scholars disagree on the response. Therefore, the response I offer is my personal interpretation and some of you may disagree.
I believe that when the laws of man or those placed in authority over us, want us to do something that is against the will of God, then not only do we have the right to refuse to obey, but we are obligated to whatever form of civil disobedience is necessary to remain true and faithful to biblical teachings.
First of all, I look to our prime example of Jesus Christ. We have the accounts of Matthew 21, Mark 11 and John 2, of the time when Jesus entered the temple and drove out the money-changers and merchants selling oxen, sheep and pigeons. He overturned their tables and created quite a scene. He justified His actions by telling them:
It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.
Jesus’ actions may have been considered a form of civil disobedience by the people of the time, but Jesus displayed righteous indignation against those that were defaming the House the God. In reality, it was no different than when God struck down Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, for defiling the altar of God with unauthorized fire.
Another case of civil disobedience can be found in Daniel 6. Here we read where Daniel knew that a law had been signed forbidding anyone from praying to any god or man other than to King Darius. He knew this was against the will of God and the Ten Commandments, so Daniel continued to pray to God and not the king. He was subsequently thrown into the den of lions where God protected him by closing the lions’ mouths. What Daniel did was civil disobedience to man, but righteous obedience to God.
In Esther 3 and 7, we read where she displayed civil disobedience by approaching King Ahasuerus without first being summoned or recognized by the king. She acted in according to her faith and to fight the wrong being perpetrated by Haman. Esther was rewarded for her faithfulness even though she had been disobedient.
In the second half of Acts 5, we read the account of when Peter and John were brought before the high priests and ordered to stop preaching and teaching in the name of Jesus. Peter responded by saying:
We must obey God rather than men.
On the other side of the argument, some Christians believe we are to be completely complacent and maintain peace at all cost. This is the ‘turn the other cheek’ mentality. And sadly it is this prevailing idea of turning the other cheek that led Christians to remain silent over the past fifty years allowing the vocal liberals to corrupt and destroy the morals and integrity of our nation.
But to these people that think Jesus was all about keeping peace and no civil disobedience, allow me to remind them what Jesus said in Matthew 10:34-39:
Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
Therefore, I believe that when it comes down to obeying God or obeying man, we are obligated to obey God first and foremost. If that requires an act of civil disobedience then so be it. But we need to remember that in our civil disobedience we are do it in such a way as to be honoring to God.
However, I have to warn you that expressing civil disobedience for God’s sake can be costly. In Acts 6 and 7 we read about Stephen, a young man on fire for Jesus who would not stop preaching in Christ’s name. In chapter 7 we read where they stoned Stephen to death for his disobedience to man but steadfast faithfulness to Christ.
In more recent times, I often think of Dietrich Bonheoffer who was executed by Hitler’s Nazi forces for his civil disobedience in helping those who believed in Jesus Christ.
I also think about all of the Christians in places like Egypt, Syria, Sudan, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, China and a number of other countries who are sacrificing everything including their lives for Jesus Christ. In many instances they are accused of civil disobedience in their country just for being a Christian and praying to God and not Allah.
Sandy, I pray that I have sufficiently made and defended my position concerning civil disobedience as a Christian and that you understand my views on the subject. Thank you for your question and I pray you continue to find our material helpful in your spiritual growth and walk with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Creator of heaven and earth.
A true story, God’s Outlaw is about international politics, church intrigue, cold-blooded betrayal, and false justice ending in a criminal’s death. But it’s also about victorious faith and spiritual triumph over some of the greatest political and religious forces known in the 16th century.
A simple God-seeking man, William Tyndale somehow became one of the most wanted men in England and all of Europe. Pursued by King Henry VIII, Lord Chancellor Sir Thomas More, and the Pope’s personal legate Cardinal Wolsey, he darted across Europe to avoid capture — always pushing to complete the task that obsessed him.
The task was translating the Bible into English and publishing it for his fellow countrymen — Englishmen who lived in a country where the Bible and even prayers in English were outlawed by a harsh and rigid religious establishment. Today he is renowned as “the father of the English Bible,” and is recognized as one of the major leaders of the English Reformation. But the tale of how he lived and died as “God’s Outlaw” is a compelling “rest-of-the-story,” and is especially a moving encouragement for modern people of faith.