The Boundaries of Resistance

This is part two in a series of posts regarding the Church and resistance to tyranny.  You can access part one by clicking here.

When I became a pastor, I knew that I would have to answer a lot of difficult questions and make a lot of tough decisions.  As I saw it, most of those questions and decisions involved church budgets and marriage.

I’ve only been a senior pastor for a few years but the world has changed a lot in that time.

While issues concerning marriage and finances have been a part of my job, I’ve recently found myself discussing with church members ethical dilemmas that I never dreamed of when I was a seminary student.

If the government outlaws the guns that I have in my home, what should I do?

If a TSA agent singles out my wife or daughter for a full body pat down, should I permit them to do so?

Should I use funds from my business to provide abortions for my employees?

Every one of these concerns and many more like them can be summed up in one general question.  How do I know when to submit to my government and when to obey God rather than man?

This is a very difficult question because the Bible never mentions TSA agents, gun grabs and Obamacare.  However, there are biblical principals that can guide us as we attempt to navigate our way through these unfortunate scenarios.  The following may prove beneficial.

1.  Pray for God’s wisdom.

God promises to give you his wisdom if you ask for it in faith (James 1:5-8) so you should take him seriously on this offer.  I do every morning.  I confess my shortcomings and ask for his wisdom to guide me in my role as a husband, father, pastor and citizen.  It is this wisdom that helps us to know when to resist and when to merely oppose.  Resistance involves action, such as civil disobedience.  Opposition is the voice of disapproval that continues to live under and obey a questionable law.

There have been times when the Church has been silent when we should have spoken and spoken when we should have remained quiet.  God’s wisdom is fundamental in preventing us from making those same mistakes.  Without his wisdom we will be left to the mercies of blind patriotism or fear of what might happen to us.

2.  Prayerfully consider if the law or mandate in question forces you to violate a God-given command.

This was the dilemma faced by Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.  They were living under a government order that directly contradicted a command from God and they resolved that it would be better to die than to disobey God.  Christians should resist any law from man that contradicts any law from God.

The owners of Hobby Lobby rightly see abortion as murder and therefore a contradiction of the sixth commandment and they are willing to accept the punishment that comes along with their resistance.  It is important to remember that resistance such as this usually comes with heavy handed punishment.  This type of decision requires the courage to stand when even good men bow and the perspective to know that there are worse things than government retribution.

3.  Prayerfully consider if opposition is a better option that resistance.

Our government is becoming more and more prone to act in ways that directly contradict the Constitution.  For them, the end justifies the means.  The problem here is that the means is usually forbidden by our nation’s most foundational laws.  But such abuses are legion.  If we decided to resist every unconstitutional action of our government we would be better off befriending Sir Richard Branson and hitching a ride on one of his space ships to the moon.

Christians on this side of eternity will always live under laws that are poorly written and poorly administered.  Generally speaking, opposition is the best option for addressing a law that is bad but does not force disobedience to divine law.  Paul’s reaction to his unlawful beating in Acts 22:25 is an example of opposition.  He did not resist but he did speak up.

Christians should consider this approach in regards to gun control and confiscation as the current administration seems to have every intention of overturning our second amendment rights.  The cold, dead hand method sounds good and looks good on the bumper sticker on the back of your truck but, as is implied, leaves your wife and kids with a cold, dead hand to lead them.  The looming talk of gun grabs are best addressed by public opposition rather than resistance.

In the meantime, we should pray for God to raise up police, military personnel and even local politicians who will resist any order to disarm the citizenry and instead, use their position to protect our constitutional rights.

4.  Prayerfully consider the law’s impact on your biblical responsibilities.

Ephesians 5:25 commands husbands to love their wives in the same way that Jesus loves the Church.  This is a big responsibility that involves sacrificial leadership and protection.  In regards to our current discussion, a husband loves his wife as Christ loved the Church by protecting her from the sexual advances that masquerade as national security.  Recent reports have informed us that TSA agents are prone to single out attractive or famous travelers for full body pat downs and naked body image scans.  One agent confessed that it was common for agents to mock the images of passenger’s naked bodies.  A Christian husband has a responsibility to protect his wife and family from this kind of treatment.

Any law that infringes upon my biblical responsibility to love my wife, train up my children and lead my church must be resisted.

There is obviously more that could be said and that will need to be said in the coming months.  Times have changed and they promise to continue changing.  This change requires a Church that is increasingly dependent on the guidance and wisdom of her Shepherd.  Without this guidance and wisdom, we are in danger of abandoning our identity as disciple-makers and either becoming just another political organization or caving in to every mandate that comes our way.

We can never be sure what will result from our resistance.  When Nathan confronted his corrupt king, it led to repentance.  A similar confrontation from John the Baptist cost him his head. We should pray for David’s response while being prepared for Herod’s.

But let us never forget, though tyrants may harm our bodies, they cannot touch our souls (Matthew 10:26-33).

And though they may do great damage to our country, our home is always secure (Revelation 21).

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  1 Peter 1:3-7 (ESV)