Q When may Christians engage in civil disobedience? The Bible clearly says we ought to obey God rather than men (Acts 4:19-20). I don’t want my tax money supporting state-funded abortions. And I cannot support same sex marriage legislation.
A The same Peter who wrote those words in Acts 4 also wrote in 1 Peter 2:13-16: “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority”—including the pagan Roman emperor and his governors. The apostle Paul gave similar commands in Romans 13:1-6. Paul even asked Christians to pay taxes, knowing very well that those taxes funded the building of temples to the Roman gods, even though Scripture explicitly forbids idolatry.
In the Old Testament, Daniel and his exiled friends became high government officials in the pagan Babylonian and Persian empires. But when commanded to bow to idols or stop praying to God, they disobeyed. On the other hand, Naaman was forgiven for aiding his king’s idol worship, acknowledging that his bowing before the idol was perfunctory (2 Kings 5:18-19). Clearly this is no simple matter.
Let me suggest some questions for considering civil disobedience: Is it truly based on honoring God or based on our outrage? Do we have a healthy or faulty view of God’s truth and grace in this matter? Does this law truly attack the core of our faith? Does it harm innocent people, so that Christians must act to love their neighbors? Have we exhausted constitutional and legal means of protest before resorting to civil disobedience? Are there nonpolitical ways to creatively address this issue? Will our civil disobedience cause harm or injustice to innocent parties? Are we fully willing to suffer the legal consequences of our civil disobedience? Is there a specific and realistic end goal for our civil disobedience? Finally, will God be glorified in this civil disobedience?
I pray for God’s wisdom in deciding this complex question.
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Don’t miss this week’s must-read articles:
- Tell A Better Story
- ‘Rebirth’ for a Wisconsin Church
- Book review: A Church Called Tov, by Laura Barringer and Scot McKnight