This week, the world’s most influential heads of state will be gathering in Brisbane for the G20. The Bible tells us to pray for our leaders and well we should as God also tells us to obey them. But He also tells us we owe our obedience by hierarchy.
Here’s a vivid account of a time of tested obedience. A time of turmoil and bloodshed.
A time where the rule of the land was to be enforced: Kill all the first-born males at birth.
Delivering The Deliverer
Such was the perilous situation all Jewish first-born males faced. Seeking to dominate the Egyptian Jewish population, Pharaoh had issued strict orders to the midwives to kill all first-born Jewish males at birth.
It was a time for women of courage and character to make a stand. A time to recognise there are laws which stand above earthly laws. In an act of righteous civil disobedience Shiphrah, Puah and even Pharaoh’s own daughter delivered the deliverer, Moses.
They were the earthly hands and feet who delivered the deliverer of Israel, the nation and culture through whom The Deliverer ultimately delivered all of humanity.
Their wisdom and courage wrote them into God’s Word.
Their wisdom and courage wrote them into each of our personal salvation histories.
Delivering Our Culture
Are there earthly laws in our culture which stand in defiance of God’s heavenly laws? Ones which defy God’s design for relationships. Ones which defy God’s value for human life. Whatever they may be, may we have the insight to know them and the wisdom and courage to defy them.
Each believer, each generation is faced with them. May we face off with the ones that face us in our lifetime. You never know what eternities will be saved by your personal act of righteous civil disobedience.
Let our worship be to God not government.
Related to this topic is an article I previous wrote in May 2012. I include it here as more food for thought:
Some of you might be aware that Chuck Colson recently passed away. He first rose to rather negative notoriety as the first in the Nixon administration to be imprisoned over the Watergate scandal. His life however is a vivid illustration of finishing well because is he now better know for his mid-life conversion to Christianity which has bore the fruit of the non-profit ministry of Prison Fellowship as well as being the founder and chairman of The Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview.
He has also been instrumental to the writing of The Manhattan Declaration.
Wikipedia describes it in this manner: “In November 2009, Colson was a principal writer and driving force behind an ecumenical statement known as the Manhattan Declaration calling on evangelicals, Catholics and Orthodox Christians not to comply with rules and laws permitting abortion, same-sex marriage and other matters that go against their religious consciences.” As for writing, it has had 525,886 signatories.
[9-11-2014 Edit: 548,496]
What I found of particular note in the document is its clear and resolute teaching on the place of civil disobedience in the face of unjust laws. I’ve included the end of it in this email which contains some thought provoking teaching on this matter. To read the rest of it and to show you support for it by signing, visit their website.
As Christians, we take seriously the Biblical admonition to respect and obey those in authority. We believe in law and in the rule of law. We recognize the duty to comply with laws whether we happen to like them or not, unless the laws are gravely unjust or require those subject to them to do something unjust or otherwise immoral. The biblical purpose of law is to preserve order and serve justice and the common good; yet laws that are unjust-and especially laws that purport to compel citizens to do what is unjust-undermine the common good, rather than serve it.
Going back to the earliest days of the church, Christians have refused to compromise their proclamation of the gospel. In Acts 4, Peter and John were ordered to stop preaching. Their answer was, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” Through the centuries, Christianity has taught that civil disobedience is not only permitted, but sometimes required. There is no more eloquent defense of the rights and duties of religious conscience than the one offered by Martin Luther King, Jr., in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail. Writing from an explicitly Christian perspective, and citing Christian writers such as Augustine and Aquinas, King taught that just laws elevate and ennoble human beings because they are rooted in the moral law whose ultimate source is God Himself. Unjust laws degrade human beings. Inasmuch as they can claim no authority beyond sheer human will, they lack any power to bind in conscience. King’s willingness to go to jail, rather than comply with legal injustice, was exemplary and inspiring.
Because we honor justice and the common good, we will not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions to participate in abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide and euthanasia, or any other anti-life act; nor will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality and immorality and marriage and the family. We will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar’s. But under no circumstances will we render to Caesar what is God’s.
Professor, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, Princeton University
Professor, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University
Founder, the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview (Lansdowne, VA)