Is civil disobedience biblical?


(music) – I think Christians struggle
with this, because there can feel like there’s a
tension in the biblical account between, on the one hand,
submitting to the authorities, you read Romans 13, for example, and then the many instances in the Bible of, what we would call civil disobedience. For example, you read in Daniel about Nebuchadnezzar, one of the
most powerful political figures of his time, building this
massive statue of himself in an act of incredible
political narcissism, and demanding that everyone in the Empire, at the appointed day,
would bow down before it, and Daniel and his peers refused to, in an act of civil disobedience,
they stay standing, and this is civil, it’s
political, it’s religious, but don’t make any mistake
about it, in that moment, it is an act of civil disobedience. So how do you put those in
relation to one another? The command to submit to the authorities, and to obey God, rather
than man, for example, as we find in Acts 5. Now how does that work? In the fundamental kind of category for it is that all authority is given by God, but there are hierarchies of authority. There are higher authorities
and lesser authorities. And our problem becomes,
when we confuse the hierarchy of those authorities. When we elevate the lower
authorities to a higher status, and we subordinate, or we
lower the supreme authority. That’s why Jesus can say, render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s. Give unto Caesar his taxes, that’s fine. Guess what, it’s just money. But what do you have to give to God? You have to give Him yourself. God is the ultimate and supreme authority. He is the king and the
ruler of the universe who rules with perfect justice, who rules with righteousness and holiness, and we will all give in account to Him. So, what does that mean
for us in our cultures and in our communities? Well, we can have all kinds
of conversations about what are particularly wise
and prudent expressions of civil disobedience. In some cultures, boycotting
may be an effective economic tactic to voice protest. In other cultures, it will
take on a different expression. In some cultures, it may be picketing. And every community has
to have that conversation about what’s an effective
and God-honoring approach. So it’s not just is civil
disobedience biblical, it’s, is the particular
instrument of civil disobedience, does it also correspond to
the virtues and the character of the Kingdom of Christ? So, I think that’s where
we have a wonderful example in our story of the
Church of Jesus Christ, in the Civil Rights Movement. That the Civil Rights Movement was at its best when it was fueled by a Christian vision, and the power of the gospel
to call for non-violence, that we don’t wage war, we don’t
advance the Kingdom of God, we don’t advance and uphold
the dignity and the sanctity of human life through violence, we do it through non-violence. Sometimes, even at
great cost to ourselves. So any instrument of civil disobedience that’s offered up, that
is contrary to the values and virtues of Christ’s
Kingdom, Christians, I think, have a responsibility to reject it. We have a hard time with
that though, and I think part of the reason we have a hard
time, is we look at the way in which the world deals with injustice, and so much of it is just fueled by rage. So, the world looks at, and
our unbelieving neighbors and friends look at
injustice, and they’re not, often they’re right to
notice there’s injustice. There’s something profoundly broken. But, the response to that is often one of just rage and self-righteousness. Whereas the Christian
response, and the response of the Kingdom of Christ,
is to tell the truth. To diagnose it. This is, no, actually,
to tell our friends, this is even worse than you realize. The problem is worse than you can imagine, because it’s not just
an issue of injustice against another human being, it’s treason against the God who made
those image-bearers. So it’s worse than you think. But we respond, not in
rage, but in meekness. You look at Jesus, Jesus
is showing us a picture of meekness in the face of injustice. Gentleness and compassion and patience. But, that gentleness,
compassion, and patience is always paired with self-sacrifice. So, the Christian response to injustice, the Christian response when we
engage in civil disobedience is never one motivated by rage, by hatred, or by self-righteousness,
it’s motivated by love, by humility, by patience, and
by a willingness to endure, in our own bodies at times, even the cost of sacrificing ourselves. So, the stakes for Christians in this, are far higher than they
are for unbelievers. Because we’re the people who recognize, we’re called to walk with
Christ, the path of suffering, to lay down, sometimes, our very lives out of love for neighbor,
rather than just retreating into comfort and silence. So, absolutely, Christians
have a responsibility to honor God and the
emperor, but we mustn’t get the order confused. Our supreme allegiance,
our supreme loyalty, our supreme identity is to the one to whom all will give an account. To the creator and the
ruler of the universe. And when our allegiance to Christ is called into question
because of what the state or the empire, or what
Caesar would demand of us, than we must go, and we must honor Christ, we must obey Christ, even if
it costs us our very lives. And sometimes that will
mean standing in the gap for our brothers and
sisters who are suffering under oppression, under injustice, and paying the cost, even
ourselves personally. (music) – [Narrator] Thanks for
watching Honest Answers. You can submit your
questions by email, Twitter, or in the comment section below. (music) And don’t forget to subscribe
to find out the answer to next Wednesday’s question. (music)

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