Many, many Christians today have a LOT of questions about civil disobedience, and specifically, what does the Bible say about civil disobedience?
Truthfully, questions about civil disobedience have never been that relevant for Christians living in the West. If you are a Christian living in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Israel or China, questions about civil disobedience have been real for a very long time. Go to church, go to jail. That is a tough one. I mean, it's not really a tough one, but for Christians living under Islamic / tyrannical regimes, it is a serious question.
Questions About Civil Disobedience are Getting Real
Since the Covid Religion (yes, I called it a religion. I will explain what I mean in the next post). came into play in 2019 - 2020, all of a sudden, this question just got real for Christians living in the West.
Close your church, open your church, X amount of people allowed in your church, 6 feet social distancing, mask wearing, not mask wearing, singing, not singing, practice hospitality (a command by the way) or no hospitality. What is a Christian supposed to do?
Doesn't the Bible tell us as Christians that we need to obey the government? Unless the government tells us to do something really wrong, like murder someone directly, we are supposed to do whatever they tell us to do right? After all, aren't they they the ones keeping us safe?
I am going to answer this question, "What Does the Bible Say About Civil Disobedience?" from several different angles. The Bible is not and was not intended to be manual, giving us easy answers for every conceivable problem we face.
Sometimes, answers to life's problems are hard. We actually need to think and fulfill God's command to "love the Lord our God with all of our mind." That takes work. I know. I am going to try to do some of that work for you to help you answer this question.
What Does Scripture Say About Civil Disobedience Specifically?
Scripture Passages That Speak Directly to this Question:
Romans 13 is perhaps the most often cited passage in Scripture when referring to this question about civil disobedience. I will quote a few verses...
"Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment."
What does this passage tell us? In this passage, Paul tells us several important things:
1. Government is not an evil spawn of sin. This is very clear. Government is a gift from God.
Why? There is a lot more in this passage (and following verses) we could unpack, but let me fly over the basics.
God is the ULTIMATE authority. There is no OFFICE or authority higher than God. He is the creator and everything else (including you) are the creation. We call this the Creator/Creature distinction.
All of God's creation is patterned after his nature and His character.
Because God is a God of order, authority is a good thing. It is a great thing. Think what the world would be like without God's law and order. Pure chaos.
2. Because Authority is From God - As Christians We are Not to Resist Authority Under Normal Circumstances
As Christians, we are to be "subject to the governing authorities." This means very simply, we are to be good citizens.
So the question becomes, is there any time that is is appropriate to resist the governing authorities?
The answer is a resounding, YES! There are times when we MUST resist the government and the authorities, even if it means getting punished, or even martyred.
In the Old Testament, there is a great story that illustrates this point.
In Daniel 3, Daniel tells us about three fellow Jews who hold government positions and are part of the captivity in Babylon, after Israel was invaded and destroyed and Jews were carried off to Babylon as slaves.
In the story, which you can read for yourself here, the King, Nebuchadnezzar builds a 100 foot statue to himself, commands that everyone worship it (him) and that, under threat of death. If you don't worship the statue, you die. In a fiery furnace!
So how do they answer the king. They tell him to go pound sand.
“O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
This is a very similar response of Peter and the other Apostles when the High Priest and Sanhedrin orders them to stop preaching about Jesus in Acts 5:29"
"But Peter and the apostles answered, 'We must obey God rather than men.'"
There are times when civil disobedience is kind of obvious. When the government, or anyone else tells us to do or stop doing something that is directly or indirectly commanded by God, the answer is quite clear. Nope. I am not going to bow to your idols. I am going to keep preaching Jesus because that is what He told me to do, no matter what. He is God and you are not. Do what you will, but we won't disobey God.
O.K. Pretty cut and dry. But what about when it isn't so cut and dry.
When Covid-19 restrictions came into play, the governors and government officials didn't say "you can't worship God alone," they just said, "hey, during this time when the sickness is so bad, we just want you to adapt and use common sense so we can keep people from dying."
Everyone complied. Churches, Christians, everyone. Or so it seemed.
There were numerous examples of pastors and churches all over the world, where pastors basically said, "we will not close the church, we will not force mask wearing, and if the government wants to sue us, go ahead." Some of these pastors, like a famous pastor in Canada were jailed.
Many others were the subjects of constant threats and intimidation. John MacArthur of Grace Community Church in Los Angeles was one of the most famous examples. Pastor John and his church sued the city, county, state and just about everyone else and demanded that their constitutional rights be upheld. "We will obey God rather than men." That was their answer.
Other pastors & churches just caved. "If the government says there is a pandemic, and I heard the statistics on the T.V. it must be true. We need to shut everything down or at least follow all of these guidelines.
Answering such churches and questions really needs to be another post. There are specific DUTIES (requirements) of churches and pastors that are different than citizens and even church members. These should be addressed separately.
So what about us? What about the average Joe?
Unfortunately, I cannot address every person who reads this, because it is possible you are from a county where the laws are very different. In general, follow the guidelines I wrote about above. Obey God and obey Scripture first. If this means that you must disobey the government, then do it. If this means you might have to bear punishment, then you need to be prepared to do that.
Martyrs were martyrs because they went to their death proclaiming Jesus, WILLINGLY! Don't be afraid to follow Jesus, all the way to your death. The suffering here simply cannot be compared to the glory of serving Jesus in the New Heaven and the New Earth forever! It just can't!
Civil Disobedience in America IS DIFFERENT!
Over here in America, the situation is a little different. No, it is a LOT different.
The United States of America is a CONSTITUTIONAL REPUBLIC. What this means simply is that government exists to make sure that all laws follow the constitution.
Liberals and progressives hate this, because they hate the constitution. This is why you would often hear Obama say that the constitution is "dynamic." In other words, he wanted to tear it up and re-write it!
When I joined the U.S. Army in 1984, I stood in a line with other soldiers, raised my right hand and swore an oath to "Defend and Uphold the constitution." I NEVER swore and oath to defend a governor, president or senator.
Why? We don't have THAT kind of government. No one in the military, or police force, or any other public service EVER swears an oath to protect government. NO. They swear an oath to "uphold and defend the constitution... AGAINST ALL ENEMIES, FOREIGN AND DOMESTIC."
Whoa! Foreign enemies are easy to spot (mostly). But who are "Domestic Enemies?" The Framers (authors) of our constitution were crystal clear about this.
Domestic Enemies are NOT the Proud Boys who own guns and ammo (although they might be). Domestic Enemies are anyone who tries to take over government and run it against the first principles of the constitution.
So, when a governor (let's use slime bag Newsom) tells churches in California that they must obey his rules or get fined, they have ZERO obligation to obey. Their allegiance is not to a governor, but to the constitution of the United States.
When an illegitimate, unelected president tells us that we must be vaccinated or else lose our jobs, we can tell them like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to go "pound sand."
Our laws are NOT and NEVER derived from authoritarian tyranny, they are derived from the Constitution and Bill of Rights. The government has NO RIGHT, under ANY CIRCUMSTANCES to tell me what to do about my body and my health.
Abortion IS different, because it's NOT the woman's body under consideration!
Can the government punish me for disobeying unlawful orders? Of course. They have the most power. They can destroy your life in one minute if they want to. You can't fight the government and win.
WE THE PEOPLE can fight them though. How do we disobey our government's unlawful tyranny and the destruction of our constitutional rights?
Band together. Pray. Seek the Lord. Repent and confess your sins to your pastor or priest. Furthermore, don't support them with your money, don't comply with their unlawful orders. If they threated to fire you from your job, LET THEM FIRE YOU. A day of restoration and recompense is coming. At the very earliest, it will be at the Return of Jesus our King. Maybe, it will be much sooner. We will wait and see.
If they fire you, you may have legal recourse later. If you quit, you will not.
The key is, resist. Resist wherever and whenever possible. NEVER threaten others with violence and NEVER threaten to use the 2nd Amendment to attack the government. It will not work.
If they come to take away your guns and you want to defend yourself or your family, you have the right to do so (under our constitution). You won't win. But apart from proper authority (like following a governor or mayor who wants to secede), you should not go down this road.
Pray. Pray. Pray.
Pray some more. Resist. Do not comply with unlawful orders. Stand firm. Your Redemption is Near.