I pray this does not turn out to be a convoluted mess, but it is a topic I find myself returning to often (if only in my own mind). Can a faithful Christian engage in civil disobedience and still be submissive to Paul’s instructions to be submissive to governing authorities in Romans 13? I believe we can!
- In matters of faith this is particularly easy. Peter and John remind us that “we must obey God rather than man” (Acts 5:29). When a law calls on us to violate our faith – God must rule supreme.
- In matters of conscience I cautiously affirm my right to disobey. This is a little trickier matter because our conscience can be well trained, helping us sort out matters that may appear gray, or it can be seared over incapable of reasoned, spiritual discernment. An example: Would you hire a homosexual employee if they were the most qualified for a secular job. The law might demand it, but I may choose not to expose my other employees to a lifestyle I disagree with (and yes this could apply to adultery, pre-marital sex, drug use, etc.).
- Here is where it is complicated (for me anyway). I struggle with whether this is a justification, or an accurate representation of our republic. In the United States, we have for a long time claimed to live under the “rule of law.” We have a constitution to protect us from our own government excess. If the government violates that rule of law and demands of me observance of a policy that contradicts my constitutional rights – do I have the right of civil disobedience in such cases. Allow me my favorite example – “the right to keep and bear arms.” That fundamental right was given to me to protect me from the government.
My defense: Paul appealed to the Roman “rule of law” when he was wrongly beaten and imprisoned. He appealed to his rights as a Roman citizen in that particular case. If the apostle can assert his civil rights – why can’t we?
Obviously, this topic is a slippery slope. If I so choose, I can extend my civil liberties in ways that are detrimental to my Christian influence. I could extrapolate out situations in such a way that I “go beyond” what is written. It is a difficult task. Just for the sake of clarity allow me a few specifics where I would exercise such civil disobedience:
- If I run a business (Christian or otherwise), I will not offer healthcare plans that allow for the abortion of an innocent child.
- If the government tells me that I have to turn in my handguns – I may well choose to accept the consequences over surrendering that right.
- If the government determines that calling sin – sin, is hate speech then I must choose to obey God rather than man.
I would welcome other’s input on this topic. Maybe the truth is simply that I am a rebel and anarchist and I am looking for reasons to oppose those things I don’t like – what do you think?