I know that Romans 13 commands us to obey the "lawful authorities".
This is where the trouble begins for me. Throughout the bible, I see passages showing me that God wants us to live free. I’ve always been what many would refer to as an “anarchist”, I guess, being the type of person who refuses to serve a master as a matter of force. All service to God is a performance of my own volition, as are my adherence to his commandments to the best of my abilities.
Likewise, so is my adherence to the laws of man, whenever possible. I’ve long-since believed that the greatest gift man was ever given by God in a post-Adam & Eve world was not salvation, but the knowledge to understand what is required for our salvation and the ability to freely accept it.
Is this not the only path to salvation as believed by the Christian? It is not through good works, or by birthright, that we obtain salvation, but by our willingness to accept Christ as our savior and allow him into our lives.
Now, getting back to what I was saying about lawlessness, I remember sitting in your garage one evening a while back when the question of self-defense was brought up…and your answer involved your own personal departure from the defenseless pacifist upbringing to your current belief of self-defense. While the discussion involved a robber in the middle of the night, I ask if it matters any at all if it is one man or a uniformed gang of several thousand men perpetrating the robbery? Does it matter if the robbery occurred inside your home in the middle of the night, or on a public street in broad daylight in front of anyone who might be passing by?
Does a government’s power over everyone within a given jurisdiction not exist solely upon the basis of force (or the threat of it)? For example, let’s take taxation, since a government cannot exist without funds. Assume, for instance, that a person has a conscientious objection to paying taxes, because that tax money will be used to fund things said person disagrees with (i.e. war, abortion, illicit drug interdiction, public schools, et cetera).
Now, assume that this person decides to not pay taxes, because he doesn’t want to pay for one man to kill another, be it in the form of abortion, war, capital punishment, or any other form. What happens when he doesn’t pay? He is threatened with prison. If he does not choose to pay taxes OR go to prison and actively refuses, he is met with government force in the form of IRS agents carrying firearms. Should he defend himself from kidnapping, they will shoot him.
I cannot see much difference between this and an armed robber that breaks into the home in the middle of the night to steal your television so it can be pawned for crack money.
Throughout the bible, we read stories of men who stood on their faith in God while doing what is right, even though it went in opposition to the law. One of my personal favorite passages is that of Daniel 6, and reading it has brought me strength in God’s word many a time while waiting to see a judge after standing my ground in what I’ve known to be right.
Even in the NT, we read of how fallible men and their regulations are to be shunned, in favor of our understanding of the law of God…and yet, we are also told to give Caeser what is his, even though it pays for things that bring anger to God. We are told to obey our worldly masters (in our case, everyone from the lowest city cop, all the way up to the President of the United States), because they are ordained by God according to the book of Romans.
I’ve never studied Greek, but something I found rather odd about the ancient Romans was their use of the word “licentia”. It has several translations into the English language, with the two standing out most vividly to me were “anarchy” and “freedom”. When I think about it, I cannot see any true freedom in the presence of any law that infringes upon it, when such laws can only be sustained by force or threat of force. Much of the book of Galations is devoted specifically to the concept of freedom, with verse 5:1 specifically stating “For freedom, Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”
The “direct” law of God, this master I choose to serve, is rather explicit with his law. It’s when we get into the laws of the middleman known as “government” that I get a bit confused.
On one hand, we are told to obey these worldly masters. On the other hand, we know that the dictates of these masters directly contradict the commandments of God on a very frequent basis…and obviously, we should obey the laws of God before the laws of man when they don’t reconcile. With that being said, how are we to determine when and where to stand our ground?
Imagine if the will of the state had been resisted in Germany, circa 1933. There would have been about six million Jews that hadn’t been slaughtered, in addition to the countless millions of others who lost their lives as a result of Hitler’s rise to power…and yet, all the law said was that the German government had the right to rule as it willed. More importantly, the Enabling Acts were passed via lawful means, through a lawfully-elected government. However, they were used to provide for the wholesale slaughter of God’s “chosen”…in addition to a whole host of other crimes against God. At what point do we cease to view tyranny as an ordained mechanism of God, and begin to view it as a violation of the laws of God?
If Christ tells us to “sell our cloak and buy one” in reference to owning a sword (the ancient equivalent of owning a decent firearm), what is the purpose if we are not supposed to resist unjust laws because the laws were put into place by those elected via majority vote? Would it not serve a better purpose to oppose such laws through non-violent means, and to do so prior to the point where we have no other means at all? If so, how are we to oppose such laws once they get past the “debate” stage on the congressional floor and are made into actual laws, if we are to submit to our duly elected leaders?
I’m having a difficult time understanding what I currently view as a contradiction in teaching within the bible (definitely wouldn’t be the first time!). If the bible tells me “Thou Shall Not Steal”, am I any less of a bank robber if I don’t actually go into the bank but I do knowingly drive the getaway car? What are we to do when obeying an unjust law does not directly violate the law of God, but we also know that obeying such a law enables our government to violate the law of God?
At what point do we take a stand, and say, “NO! I will not obey this law!”?