state of affairs

April 23, 2015

thinking over feeling

Does an individual have the right to put his own will above the government’s under which he lives and follow whatever course of action he thinks proper? Humanism is the philosophic basis for most civil disobedience, albeit humanism in varying degrees of altruism or selfishness. The arguments go this way: If a law is clearly unconstitutional, it must be broken in order to test or protest it. But who decides if a law is clearly unconstitutional? Is that up to each individual, or do we abide by the decisions of the courts? If someone does decide that he must break a law in order to test it, he must be prepared to pay the penalty.

Furthermore, it is important to remember that testing a law under our legal system does not require mass violations in order to bring it to a test.

Sometimes we hear advocates of civil disobedience justifying their actions on the basis that those means are only a last resort. But again, who determines when all legal means have been exhausted? This is a subjective judgment.

We are told that acts of civil disobedience are permissible as long as the participant is willing to take the punishment. This seems to be a perfectly justifiable stance except for the fact that punishment has commonly been regarded in all societies as just retribution for a crime and not a perfectly respectable choice of action open to anyone. In other words, the fact that someone is willing to take the punishment does not make his crime respectable.

The word crime brings up a point that is often overlooked by civil disobedience movements. Acts of civil disobedience are crimes. Protests may not be crimes, depending on the laws of the land and the conduct of the protestors, but violations of the law are illegal actions, however they may be justified in the minds of the violators.

For a Christian there should be no question about the basis for guiding his relationship to the government. He does not—indeed, cannot—operate on a subjective basis, nor can he espouse a humanistic ethic. It is the Bible which guides all of his conduct, and the Bible has a good deal to say by way of direct teaching and example about the matter of civil disobedience.

The Lord recognized the dual citizenship of His followers in His statement: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Mark 12:17). He also made clear that God’s servants do not fight in order to bring in the spiritual kingdom (John 18:36), although soldiers are a legitimate part of the order of this world’s kingdoms (Luke 3:14).

Failure to make this distinction has led some to picture our Lord as a revolutionary and leader in civil disobedience. He is described by some as a serious threat to law and order or as conspiring to overthrow the established government. To be sure, our Lord was a threat to the religious establishment of His day but not to the political kingdom of Rome, and Pilate clearly recognized that (John 18:33–38).

Jesus was not an anarchist trying to overthrow Rome, nor did He spend His time protesting the political sins of Rome.

The apostles present clear guidelines about obeying government. Paul commanded believers to be submissive to the government (Rom. 13:1–7) because authority is ordained of God (v. 1; notice that nothing is said about only certain forms of government being ordained of God), resistance to government is in the final analysis resistance to God (v. 2), government generally opposes evil (v. 4), and our consciences tell us to obey (v. 5). No exceptions that would justify civil disobedience are listed.

Eight or nine years later, after having much personal involvement (including several imprisonments) with the Roman government under which he lived, Paul had not changed his mind about the teaching he had written in Romans. He said again essentially the same things: “Put them in mind to be subject [this is the same verb as in Romans 13:1] to principalities and powers [this is also the same word as in the previous passage], to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work” (Titus 3:1). Maltreatment at the hands of the Roman government had evidently not provided Paul with sufficient existential grounds for changing his teaching (see also 1 Thess. 2:2).

About the time Paul was writing to Titus, Peter wrote a similar word on submitting to government (1 Pet. 2:13–17). The reasons he listed for obedience are that by obeying God-ordained government we show our obedience to God Himself (v. 13), that it is the will of God (v. 15), and that it is a good testimony to the unsaved (v. 15). According to Peter, obedience should extend to every ordinance and to all rulers. Again, no exceptions are made for certain types of government or the conscience of the believer. Actually the principle underlying the concept of civil disobedience is the believer’s position as servant of God (v. 16). In summary, the direct teaching of Scripture seems to require complete civil obedience on the part of Christians.

So in spite of end time prophecies, imminent zombie attacks, gun rights, voting fraud, illegal aliens or whatever they are called these days, gay rights, white power, black power, shifting global powers, you name it, we are to be good citizens, actually model citizens. Can we protest, sure, within the boundaries of the law. If there are things you don’t like about society there is still a time honored tradition, prayer. It sounds like a cliché to the uninitiated but prayer does change things; even the hearts of leaders.

If you are unhappy with the state of your nation remember one thing, you always get what you deserve in government. The corruption and ungodliness of your heads of state is reflective of how the nation honors and worships God.

God bless from

Let’s not pray for revival but for reformation (hhhmmmmmm that may be our next devotion).


3 Responses to “state of affairs”

  1. Now that… is a truly scary prayer.

    • I don’t remember that country western song or who sang it, but the gist was thank goodness God doesn’t answer all our prayers, well He really does, just in ways we don’t always fathom. God bless.

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