Civil Disobedience

It has been over a month and a half since we as a church have been able to meet in our building.

Many are starting to feel the fatigue that comes with social distancing and the virtual shutdown of our society in recent weeks.  In light of this, the call to reopen society and allow churches to meet in person is growing increasingly louder.

We are tired.  We are impatient.  We are ready to move forward.

As is often the case, the government moves much slower than the desires of the people.  Sometimes this is a good thing; sometimes it is not.  In our current situation, it can become very tempting for churches to “choose their own path” and begin on-campus services sooner than local, state, and national officials recommend.

This leads to the question, “When is it okay to disobey the government?”

When the church looks to answer this question, she will undoubtedly be drawn to the book of Romans:

Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.  (13:1)

Or the words of Peter

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right.  (1 Peter 2:13-14)

However as we dive deeper into Scripture, we find many examples of God’s people defying their rulers.

Shadrach, Meshach, & Abednego – Defied their King by refusing to worship the golden idol that he set up of himself.  (Daniel 3)

Mordecai – Esther’s uncle refused to bow and pay homage to Haman even though the King had decreed that everyone should do so.  (Esther 3:1-6)

John the Baptist – John spoke boldly against Herod’s improper relationship with his brother’s wife, despite him being the tetrarch of the region where John preached.  (Matthew 14:1-5)

So what is the Christian to do?  How do we navigate these waters in a way that above all glorifies God?

Here are a few recommendations:

  1. Check Your Heart

Before you make one decision, before you say one thing, take a moment and prayfully reflect on what you are doing.

I know this may sound trite but the Christian must be sure that they are moving forward with the right intentions and in the right method.  Are you looking to defy leadership to flex your own muscles or to serve God?  Even if your intentions are good, are you doing it in a spirit of gentleness or are you simply angry & spiteful?

Prayer does a lot to calm an angry soul and put him or her back on the path of righteousness.  Remember, “the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” (James 1:20)

2.  Remember, the church is not a building

Next, we need to take a moment and ask what we can and cannot do.  During a pandemic like COVID-19, we are not able to meet in person like we normally do.  But what can we do?

We can still worship.  We worship in our homes and with family.  We worship through social media and television.  We can worship in our living rooms, our cars, and our neighborhoods.

We can still share the gospel.  Today more than ever we are able to invite our “Ones” to join us for worship.  Simple “Watch Parties” on Facebook, and the sharing of music, scripture, and sermons online can have a huge impact on people all over the globe who are stuck at home with only the internet as their window to the outside world.

We can still love No one is stopping us from picking up the phone and checking on people.  No one is stopping us from emailing people.  No one is stopping us from showing love and grace to those who are still serving us at the grocery store, drive-thru, or hospital.  Let your love shine even brighter today, so people will want to know the God you serve.

“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”  (Matt 5:16)

3. Does it further / hinder the Kingdom?

Finally, we have to be sure that we are keeping our mission at the center of our work.

I understand that there are many who want to make this a constitutional issue.  We are tremendously blessed to live in a country where the right to worship freely is part of our governing document.  Very few countries are as blessed as we are in that regard.  Yes, this should be something that we defend and defend consistently.

Having said that, we cannot sacrifice our witness for Christ in order to defend the Constitution.  This is less about whether to defend it, and more about how we defend it.  Let our words be gracious, our resolve be unwavering, and our morals be true.  We have to remember that one day the United States of America will be no more, but the Word of God endures forever. 

Please don’t use your words to scare people away from a relationship with Christ.  Instead use them to whet their appetite and make them curious about your passion for this Jesus whom you call the Christ.

“Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.” (Col 4:6)

In all that we do, point others to Jesus so that they will love Him like we do.  Yes, we may occasionally disagree with the government.  Yes, we may occasionally have to do what we feel is right even in the face of opposition.  However, let us never lose sight of the fact that we are called to first & foremost make disciples of all nations! (Matt 28:18-20)