When is it appropriate (if ever) for a Christian to defy or rebel against the government?

                Lengthy title aside, I think this question is one that many American Christians have been considering given recent political events that show that the church and the government are not of the same mind on some issues. Now I’m sure many of you have already put together what political events, but my goal here is not to discuss what has happened in our country, but what we should do now as Christians.
Now then, we can examine the scriptures to find other cases in where men of God followed their hearts and defied their kings and governments in accordance with the will of God, not the will of man. The first story to come to mind for me is Daniel (Daniel 6). There were officials in the kingdom who convinced Darius to issue a decree that no one will be worshipped in the kingdom for thirty days except for King Darius. Now Daniel did not follow this decree and went and prayed to God three times a day. The officials who got Darius to issue the decree turned Daniel in, and Darius had no choice but to throw Daniel in the lion’s den. God protected Daniel through the night and when Darius came back and found Daniel alive, Darius declared that all people in the kingdom must fear and revere the God of Daniel.
                There is a second story close to this one that I always loved as a child. The story of Shedrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These three were serving in the palace of King Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon and were appointed to high offices in the province. When Nebuchadnezzar built for himself a golden image, he decreed that whenever the sound of music is heard, then all must fall and worship the image, lest they be thrown into the furnace. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego naturally did not worship this image and were turned over to Nebuchadnezzar. When threatened with the furnace, they said “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” Nebuchadnezzar then ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than normal, and cast the three into it. When the King looked in he saw Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego standing in the furnace with someone who looked like a Son of God. When the three men came out, they were not singed nor smelled of fire. When the King saw this, he offered praise to the King of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
                Now how about a New Testament perspective? Most of these can be summed up in the authorities of the land telling the disciples of Christ, or Christ himself, to be silent about the message they were bringing. In the book of Acts, Peter and John responded in this way: “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4.19-20). This I believe is the core of the examples I have presented here. In each case the government at hand was trying to usurp the ultimate authority of God and commanding that their word is greater than God’s. But wait, you might ask, what about Romans 13? Well let’s unpack that for a minute. It says in this passage that all authorities derive their power from God. Well then if these authorities want to quote that, then they must understand that I expect those authorities to acknowledge the authority of the One who has placed them in that position. Anyone who is smugly using these verses then expecting me to give you a blank check to do as you please. I would direct you to the multitude of kings of Israel and Judea in the Old Testament who were deposed when they decided that they could do as they please and not answer to God. Now this could be a grey area and you can get different answers, but my answer is as thus. If the governing authorities over me start blatantly ignoring the God who has given them authority over their people, then they are not worthy of recognition. I think this is close to the rationale used by German Christians during the reign of Hitler or by European Christians during the rise of Stalin and Communism which led many to ultimately give their lives either disobeying the regimes or by speaking out against them.

                I hope to have explored and answered this title question in my own way. In regards to the political matters I mentioned at the beginning, I had actually begun writing this when Christian bakers were being sued for not baking cakes for same-sex weddings, but I decided to bring this back to the front of my mind when Kim Davis was arrested for refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses. Now my thoughts when coming to these matters. They are definitely grey areas and different Christians will give you different answers. For the bakers, I think it’s something like giving a homeless person money. Even if they use that money for illicit means, we are called upon to help those in need. Now maybe a wedding cake isn’t exactly the same thing, but this is the path my brain is on. If you are a Christian baker and have a different conviction about this, then please carry through your convictions. I am only writing what I feel led to write on these topics. For Kim Davis, this is a trickier matter for me. I think Kim is thinking of Mark 9:42 by doing what she did. She is hoping to prevent God’s children from stumbling. I can understand this, and I would hate to put my name to something that I view as enabling sin as well. I don’t know what I would do in that position, I know many who have said that I would find a different job, which would be the safe option, but we are also called to be bold in Jesus’ name, and maybe Kim was standing her ground in terms of her faith. We can all armchair general this case until the cows come home, but we can all take away that Kim stood her ground for her faith and was jailed for it. That is how she views it and I think that is how quite a few people view this. The one take home lesson I would take from this big ramble of mine is this, if the powers that be try to usurp the authority of God or change what He said, then the powers that be will find themselves with Christians who will respectfully decline to follow them. May God bless you and have a good rest of your night.


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