Civil Disobedience

But Peter and John said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.”

Acts 4:19-20

There should be no doubt in our minds that this country has certain hot spots of civil unrest. Yet as I look out from what Linda and I call our Italian Summer room, I struggle seeing any unrest on my street. Truth be told, for the past six months life has changed very little for us who live on Fifth Ave. Our biggest change has come in the pools and basketball courts being shut down for the Summer. But as to civil unrest, not much evidence is seen in our neighborhood outside the occasional graffiti found in the skateboard park. Perhaps it is due to the fact that most of us on our street are semi or fully retired. But I believe the more accurate reason is that streets around us are full of young families enjoying life lived in a community of 36,000 residents. To give you an example, our skateboard park is open, trails for walking, jogging, and biking are open. Personally, I have enjoyed many miles of mountain biking. So, it is difficult to imagine that there are cities in our country burning, where violence and mob rule is the nightly norm. I suppose in a way we are isolated from what we witness in the news. Let me take it a step further, civil disobedience just doesn’t fit in my normal everyday thinking. My everyday goal is to act civil, respectful, compliant, obedient to the laws of the land. The last thing I want to do is be part of a mob, throw bricks at police, and burn down buildings. Linda and I pay our taxes when they come due, take care of our property, and outside of being a loud preacher–I live a quiet existence. With the exception of sharing Christ and the hope that lies within us we live a quiet and reserved life. My everyday goal is to flesh out Jesus to those around me. So, to right about Christians becoming disobedient to the governing authorities whether state or local is something I never have to do or be part of in my life time.

Now, the concept of civil disobedience is not new and anarchy has been around since Satan wanted to take God’s place on His throne. American anarchist writer and feminist Voltairine de Cleyre once said, “I die, as I have lived, a free spirit, an Anarchist, owning no allegiance to ruler, heavenly or earthly.” Her words declare the deepest desires of her heart… she had no allegiance to authority, heavenly or earthly. And we need to take a lesson out of de Cleyre’s playbook.

How de Cleyre lived her life sums up well what is going on in America today. If one holds no allegiance to God, why on earth would someone show allegiance to other human beings, especially human beings that, in their estimation are not doing a good job of governing? Why not burn down businesses and state buildings if there is no respect for authority? And if there is no God, no judgement, no final authority to be faced, shouldn’t we do anything we want this side of eternity? Shouldn’t I have the right to make it up as I go along in life? Judges 21:25 said it well, “In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.” (NLT) I believe we are seeing this verse fleshed out in in our country today. It isn’t that we don’t have a king, it is that they do not respect nor fear governmental authority.

BUT WHAT ABOUT THE CHRISTIAN AND CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE? I don’t believe any of us want that day to come when we disobey the government in order to practice our faith. Let’s take our freedom to assemble for the purpose of worship as an example. At the moment we can assemble. Yes, Sunday morning looks different because of Covid-19. But our church provides a variety of venues for worship and realize that not all of us are taking advantage of what is offered. Other examples can be seen in our freedom to share the gospel, and we can still pray in public. Personally, I have never been told not to say blessing over my food when dining out.  Authentic Christianity can be fleshed out daily whether at the market, school, at work or in our leisure time. Think about it, there is no ban on evangelism, no ban on sharing the gospel. My basic human right to think about my Divine Creator may be questioned by the intellectual elite, but they cannot take that right away from me. They may deem my belief system silly, dysfunctional, unreasonable, and illogical, but the laws of the land still protect my right to freedom of religion, freedom to assemble, and freedom to exercise my interpretation of God’s Word in every day life.

 But make no mistake, if there is a mindset in the general politics of our country and more specific at the state capital in Albany that believes churches are non-essential what makes you think they see God as an essential? So what is the probability of the government shutting down churches or our right to share the gospel? I don’t have an answer to that. But knowing church history it could very well happen and how we respond will tell us who we really belong to, and what we really believe is essential to living our life in Christ.

THE WITNESS FROM SCRIPTURE: Let me leave you with this thought. As a Christians, our greatest demonstration of civil disobedience may come in the form of speaking the truth of the gospel that has been handed down to us for the past two millenniums. Will the government try to shut us down, shut us up? I have no idea. But as I write this article the church that John MacArthur pastor’s is under fire by the state government, as the state authorities try to ban Grace Community Church in Sun Valley from holding services. At this point a judge rejected Los Angeles County’s attempt to temporarily banned them from holding large unmasked services. This will no doubt have an impact on other churches who decide to defy state and local mandates. The issue is one of theological and philosophical differences. One sees worship and fellowship as an essential for church life and the obedience to God and His Word while the other doesn’t recognize God’s authority nor the need for obedience to Him.

MY TAKE AWAY! It is my conviction that as believers we need to become proactive in everyway possible to share the gospel and at the same time be model citizens obeying the laws of government until those stated laws infringe on our obedience to God’s commands found in the Scriptures. Now that is a mouthful. But in short, making it difficult to meet on Sunday morning is not the same as telling us we cannot meet. Incidentally, telling us we cannot meet in a building designated for the church isn’t telling us we cannot assemble. If they are telling us we cannot assemble for the purpose of worship, prayer, and the study of God’s Word, we have a God given mandate to meet, we have a continued mandate from God to share the gospel, and we should in civil disobedience make it as difficult for the authorities and powers to be to deal with us as much as possible. Let me put it in these terms. Trying to stop Christians from being who they are and what they do should be as difficult as tacking Jell-O to a wall.

In the opening verse cited, what Peter and John said to the authorities who wanted to shut them up and shut them down should be the creed of every Christian who wants to flesh out their life in Christ today. The question is simple, who are we going to listen to when the powers to be tell us we cannot assemble for the purpose of worship? You may be thinking, “We will never see it in our country, it will never happen to us.” My answer is simple; Take a page out of the two thousand years of Christian history and tell me one time where Christian did not have to show civil disobedience in order to follow God and His Word?

This is Pastor Pat FROM BEHIND THE PEN, wishing you Joy in Jesus!