To Rebel or to Obey…That is the question.
What can I say? I, like many of you (at least according to the polls) do not like the fact that our government now controls most of the auto industry, health care, and student loans. As I sat and watched (with disgust) as the house passed a bill that will effectively socialize health care, I wondered, what recourse we as Christians have against such a governmental move. My question is, can Christians rebel against the government without sinning?
Most people (atheist’s, and Christians alike) will use Romans 13 to say that Christians have no right to rebel against government. Romans 13:1-7 says this:
1Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. 4For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. 6This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. (NIV)
So what are we to take from this? Paul’s point is very clear. Submit to governing authorities, because God establishes authority. IF YOU REBEL YOU ARE REBELLING AGAINST GOD! Wait a second did I just read that? Sure enough, there it is Romans 13:2. How does this stack up against the rest of scripture though? Even the most basic level of Bible knowledge will show that that the Bible has examples where God moved people to resist a government.
Moses is the easiest example where the Bible shows how God can prompt us to resist a government.
Exodus 1:15-21 shows us how midwives disobeyed Pharaoh when asked to kill every Jewish boy.
Daniel 3 shows three men (Shadrach, Meschach, and Aded – Nego) defy Nebuchadnezzar when asked to bow down before him as king.
Acts 5:29 shows Peter defying a Judge.
Daniel defies King Darius’ decree in Daniel 6:1-17.
The Bible does contain events which show that Godly men disobeyed authority. If you read Romans 13 in conjecture with these stories there would appear to be a contradiction. Either Paul got it wrong, or the people in these events got it wrong. I have to admit, I was stuck at this point. So which is it?
To begin my own evaluation you have to remember one simple point, God cannot contradict himself. And, if you remember from my previous post (The Bible…Good Moral Stories?); every word in the Bible is true. So based on that simple principle both Paul and the other events have to hold a singular valid point.
The next point, what were the conditions that allowed these people to rebel? I think Acts 5:29 and Daniel 3 hold the key. In both examples the men involved with these events choose to obey God rather than obey men. This involved knowingly disobeying the law of the land. For Peter it was claiming that Christ was Lord, for the three men in Daniel it was not kneeling down before Nebuchadnezzar. The other examples also support this notion. The single message we can take from these events is that in all of them, the laws were in contradiction to God’s law, and God’s word.
Let’s look at some other things that Paul said in general to help shed some light on our overall obligations as Christians. II Corinthians 10:5 states “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” This to me defines the very nature of the issue at hand. Paul states that we will demolish EVERY pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God. The knowledge of God is the Bible. We will demolish anything that sets itself up against the Word of God. How can we compare the events noted above, with II Corinthians 10:5? Back to Romans 13…
What point is Paul trying to make? To what specific point was he talking to? Re-reading Romans 13 I come to the conclusion that Paul was talking about general law, and paying taxes. If the general law, for instance, is to stop when a policeman pulls you over, do not rebel. If the general law is to pay taxes then pay your taxes. This is the point, I believe, that Paul is trying to make in Romans 13. How do I come to this conclusion? Paul knows that God would not have us submit to laws that are contradictory to His law. God has shown us, through His Word, that we are obligated to not obey laws that defy God (see above). This successfully answers the question I posed at the beginning; can Christians rebel against the government without sinning? Would we be violating Biblical doctrine if we did rebel against the government? The answer is: IF a particular law CLEARLY contradicts GOD’S WORD WE ARE OBLIGATED TO DISOBEY THAT LAW.
So what now? If you have come to the same conclusion that I have the next viable question to ask is what do we do know? II Corinthians 10 holds the answer to the question. II Corinthians 10:2-5 (NIV) states:
I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of this world. 3For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
Paul is clear as to how we are to proceed. We will not use the weapons of this world. We as Christians must, MUST unite together and proceed in a way that is demonstrative of God’s love, and will. We can defy ungodly laws, without violence. So what does that mean? Legal challenges, not obeying laws that contradict the Word of God and voting Godly Christians into office. These are a few of the things we can do at this time. But we must be united behind the mantle of Christ and hold firm.
It would be easy for me to stand in front of you and tell you what I think you should do in response to the passage of the health care bill. You probably can tell from the opening paragraph where I stand. Romans 13 is something that I have been praying about since the health care bill passed. Atheists love to remind me of my obligation to submit to authority, especially when they are in authority. It is important to understand that I don’t have all the answers and can only provide insight as to my own education when I study the Word of God. The initial version of this post was much more harsh, and much more to the point. I believe that through prayer the Holy Spirit softened my heart. It is far too easy to fan the flames of discontent than it is to stoke the fire of reason. Our first obligation must always be to God and his infallible Word.
“Atheists love to remind me of my obligation to submit to authority, especially when they are in authority.”
Except we aren’t. Sadly.
congrats on being just painfully insane.
Thanks for reading and caring enough to comment. We would be happy to comment further if you would be more specific in your objections to what was posted.
This blog is as phoney as the ones writing it.
Like i said close the blog down you are making a fool of yourself. If you disregard the bible in one book you disregard the rest not just the one or two parts that you seek to justify using your own words. They are either the words of this god you worship or they arent you cant pick and chose to fit your needs.
First of all, thanks for caring enough to read our blog and then make bold commentary on it. Your passion for your opinions is obvious. We (both authors of this blog) completely agree with you that one must accept or reject the Bible as a whole (we have previously posted on biblical inerrancy and have plans to create more in the future). However, I’m not seeing the inconsistency in our post that you have.
Robert said that Christians must submit to the authority of the government so long as it doesn’t directly and blatantly contradict the Word of God. He pointed out examples of God-sanctioned rebellion against authority and lined out possible righteous actions in the current situation in light of Romans 13.
I am in agreement with him that the recent health care bill is not a reason for civil disobedience. However, Christians should feel free to act within the law to make social change.
We would be happy to discourse with you further if you would be so kind as to point out specifically where you believe that we are inconsistent and “phony”.
I’m curious as to why you (and so many other American Christians) are against the idea of the government providing health care. Of all the things we ought not to want treated as a commodity health care would seem to be near the top f the list. There’s an obvious conflict between a health insurance companies desire to maximize it’s profits (as any business does) and the citizen’s health care needs—it’s in their interest to exclude coverage whenever possible.
This would seem to make health care a natural fit for a public program. And, strangely enough, I haven’t seen any Christians bemoaning the public health care system we already have: Medicare.
So what’s the thinking on this? Why would you not, for example, want children and the poor to be provided coverage they might not otherwise be able to afford on near minimum wage earnings?
My issue is when the government creates a program that sponsors abortion. This is something that I cannot reconcile spiritually, and something that I have no desire to pay for. Thus my post really was focused more on myself than anything. My goal was to answer the single question that is now on the minds of a number of Christians…can we rebel and be within the word of God? The answer was a qualified yes. Even with the yes there were certain things that we can and cannot do.
Your comment hits on a number of good topics. Is capitalism Biblical? How can companies make money and be within the word of God? Company pay…at what point should companies pay more to employees based on scripture? How about this one…At what point is the government trying to supplant God? In other words… when to government sponsored programs make people dependent on a government run by men, and not on God?
I would love to have the political discussion here on these topics but…I am constantly reminded…this is not a political blog. To address your last question… There is not one single main-line evangelical Christian that would want to deny anyone the ability to see a doctor or to receive treatment. I think where you and I may disagree…is how that is done.
My issue is when the government creates a program that sponsors abortion.
One can have public health care without covering abortion (and, if I’m not mistaken, this bill did exclude it). But you seem to be opposed to the whole idea of public health care. So, again, why?
I would love to have the political discussion here on these topics but…I am constantly reminded…this is not a political blog.
Your comment was political. And when your religion impacts your politics it is not, I think, inappropriate to discuss that overlap. After all, as you point out in your quotes, the Bible itself discusses political issues more than a few times.
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I want to thank you for writing this post. I am a volunteer staffer with TeenPact Leadership Schools. We teach students to engage in a culture that is hostile to God(yes we are unashamedly Christian) One of the ways we teach students to make an impact is through the realm of Government(each class is worth 1/3 of a credit in Government) This is always a point we make. When the government is doing its rightful job(protecting the God given rights of the people and administering justice) than we should be in full submission, this however is not always the case and there are governments that oppose God. In cases such as those we must obey God’s higher authority over man’s authority. People must understand as a Christian your loyalty lies with Christ above all else, then you may be loyal to your country as long as it does not violate the first loyalty.
God Bless you as you continue to share your faith!