7 Minute Read
TODAY’S BIBLE READING:
1 Kings 1:1-53
TODAY’S BIBLE VERSE(S):
Acts 4:18-20 (CSB): “So they called for them and ordered them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. Peter and John answered them, ‘Whether it’s right in the sight of God for us to listen to you rather than to God, you decide; for we are unable to stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.'”
REFLECTIONS ON TODAY’S BIBLE VERSE(S):
Christians are called to respect, obey, and pray for their government. The reason we are to think about and respond to our government in this way is because we are convinced by Holy Scripture that God is the one who installed our government’s officials and has given them the right to carry out their responsibilities (see Romans 13:1-7 and 1 Peter 2:13-17).
So, as a general, default rule, Christians are to be their government’s greatest blessing. We should be model citizens who pray for our leaders, comply with the laws, and work for the health and well-being of our nation.
But, there is a time when we must disobey.
We see one such instance of an unjust law in the verses that I have chosen as Today’s Bible Verses. And, we see how Christians responded to that unjust law.
Acts 4:18-20 (CSB): “So they (anti-Christian officials) called for them (Christians) and ordered them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. Peter and John answered them, ‘Whether it’s right in the sight of God for us to listen to you rather than to God, you decide; for we are unable to stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.'”
Let’s briefly unpack what is taking place in the preceding verses:
- Peter and John were publicly preaching and teaching about Jesus.
- The Sanhedrin (the Jewish ruling body) demanded that Peter and John stop talking about Jesus.
- Peter and John realized that they were in a position where their government’s law called for them to break the law of God.
- Peter and John determined to obey the law of God and break the law of man.
- Peter and John were prepared to receive the consequences of breaking an unjust law.
- Their actions didn’t undermine their government. It simply showed that the command to stop speaking about Jesus was unjust and they would not comply.
Essentially, this sort of action has been called “civil disobedience.”
Civil Disobedience: refusal to obey governmental demands or commands especially as a nonviolent and usually collective means of forcing concessions from the government (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary)
Ideally, a Christian lives in a society where he or she can obey the laws of God AND the laws of man simultaneously. Ideally, the government has put laws in place that allows Christians to live out their faith.
But, we realize that we live in a broken world, led by governments and people who are sinful. We know that inevitably laws will be put in place in which a Christian cannot, with a good conscience, comply with. It is in those instances where Christians must determine whether they will comply with the laws of the land or the laws of God.
In the past, there have been plenty of laws that an American Christian, could not in clear conscience, comply with. One such law was segregation and the devaluing of people simply because of the color of their pigment. It is because of Billy Graham’s public outcry against racism and segregation, and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s tireless work in the area of civil rights that our nation’s laws were eventually changed. (It is noteworthy that it was a Christian worldview that pushed back on the unjust laws that eventually toppled segregation while valuing the government that had created such laws.)
In our current culture, we are watching our government continue to push laws that Christians, with a clear conscience, cannot comply with. One such set of laws requires that Christian bakers must essentially violate their conscience by baking a wedding cake for an LGBTQ+ wedding … or they will be taken to court. Fortunately, Christians are seeing some victories in the court system.
But, I can guarantee that as our country continues its downward slide into moral depravity, more laws will be put on the books that will violate God’s laws. It is in those instances where Christians will have to determine which law they will comply with: man’s laws or God’s laws.
But, as we obey God’s laws and violate our government’s laws, we must keep the following in mind:
- As we obey God’s laws, we must continue to respect, pray for, and obey our government (as long as our government’s laws don’t violate God’s laws).
- When we violate our government’s laws, we must do so in a way that is characterized by civil disobedience. We do so respectfully.
- We realize that violating our government’s laws will bring consequences. While we pray against the injustice of the whole thing (and work within the system to change the unjust laws), we receive the consequences of our actions.
- Our actions must be done in such a way that the Gospel is proclaimed. Our actions should never, ever bring shame upon the Gospel or our wonderful God. Instead, our actions should demonstrate to a watching world that we are people of conviction and are appealing to a higher law. When we exercise civil disobedience, we have an opportunity to shine a light on that higher law.