Is it time for Christian civil disobedience?

A new Presidential administration was inaugurated this week. How exactly should Jesus followers think about the days ahead?

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were inaugurated this week as President and Vice President of the United States. Biden becomes the 46th President of the United States and as with every change of leadership, it’s an important time for Christians to think through the process of exactly what are our obligations as citizens.

1 Peter 2:13-14 tells us that we are to “submit to every earthly authority.” Pretty straight forward. Romans 13:1-2 tells us that we are submit to the governing authorities that God has placed over us. Pretty straight forward. 1 Timothy 2:1-2 says this: "First of all, then, I urge that requests, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made in behalf of all people, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity."

Now it’s interesting that the Bible balances these calls for citizens, for Christian citizens to submit to the authorities that God has placed in positions over us. And yet, it also gives us guidelines for those times when we stand against our leaders and actually step into the realm that we call “civil disobedience.”

One of the things I’ve noticed in the last fifteen of twenty years is that Americans have become, at least in my mind, Americans have become bad about deifying their Presidents. I remember watching the intro of the BET Awards a number of years ago. Barrack Obama was still President at that time, and Jamie Foxx was doing the opening monologue and hosting the awards. I wasn’t really interested in the awards show but I wanted to watch the Jamie Foxx opening monologue. And I remember how stunned I was when he came out to massive applause and he began his routine by saying these words. I’ll never forget them. He said, “Tonight, we need to stop and give thanks and praise to our Lord and Savior, Barrack Obama.” President Obama was referred to regularly in the media as the Messiah.

It’s not just a Democrat thing. The last four years I’ve seen Christians refer to Donald Trump as the “Chosen One, as God’s divine instrument.” I thought maybe between those two bold personalities, maybe we’d gotten past that. But here we have a brand-new President. And he’s been President for 24 hours. What I’ve already seen is Rabbi Michael Beals, a Jewish leader in the state of Delaware speaking at a rally with President Biden and Vice President Harris. And his words just cut me deep when he said,

“Moses led my people out of four hundred years of slavery. You President Biden are our new Moses. And you will lead us out four hundred years of institutional racism. And Kamala Harris is our new Aaron, our priest.”

Listen people, can we just stop? Barrack Obama was not the Messiah. Donald Trump was not the Chosen One. And for goodness sake, Biden and Harris are not Moses and Aaron. We’ve lost our minds to so trivialize the leadership that God uses to unfold the drama of human redemption in such a way that we dare blaspheme by taking political leaders and wrapping them in this kind of super-spiritual Biblical language.

What do we do when the Bible gives us clear instruction to submit to the leaders who have been placed over us? And yet, what happens when those same leaders move a nation in a direction that is morally repugnant and rejects the Word of God?

Well, there are a lot of people out there right now on social media arguing that the next revolution is coming. Civil disobedience will find Christians in the streets. I hear it all. But let me talk you off the ledge.

I believe there’s a day coming when we will have to render to Caesar the things that belong to Caesar but reserve for God the things that belong to God. That’s what Jesus tells us in Luke 20. He wants us to understand that there are some things that Caesar doesn’t have claim to. And those things we cannot submit to Caesar. Those things belong only to God.

We see in the Bible, Acts 4 & 5, Peter and John are arrested by the local authorities and threatened if they didn’t stop telling people about Jesus. Their answer was a classic response for an over-reaching government who demands something from us that we cannot give, a loyalty that belongs only to God. They said, “Listen, whatever you guys say you’re going to have to figure out for yourself. But as for us we can’t help but tell what we know about Jesus.”

We can go to the Old Testament and find the book of Daniel. Daniel is one story after another of followers of the true God who said, even in the most powerful nation on earth, even with the most powerful tyrant on the planet, there are some things that you cannot claim from us. And those things we will not give to you.

Well, how do we prepare for that? How do we know how to respond to a nation that comes for the things that we have that only belong to God? Our loyalty, our commitment to His Word, our commitment to living the life that He’s called us to.

Well, we start with what Paul tells Timothy in 1 Timothy 2. He says “pray.” He says, pray in every way you know how “for those in authority over you, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.” In other words, the motivation behind our prayers is that we live in a nation that allows us to live out the Christian life that God has called us to.

I’ve seen a number of Christians on social media in the last 24 hours with pious language saying, “I’m praying for the success of our new President.” Well, let me tell you how I’m praying for our new President. The Bible tells me to pray for him and I will. I’m going to pray for this President, Joe Biden, the same way I prayed Donald Trump, the same I prayed for Barrack Obama. And it is this. I’m not praying for the success of an agenda that goes directly against some of the deepest values that I hold as theological convictions in my heart. I will however pray that the top posts of this administration find their way to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. I will pray that every single day.

Now, there will be those who say, “Well, you’re fairly arrogant if you think that only your way is the right way. And that they have to come to where you are.” First of all, I want to say that it’s not my way. It’s God’s way. It’s what He reveals in His Word. There’s only one way to be acceptable to Him and it is through the forgiveness that comes from the blood of Jesus Christ. I’m praying for that for our leadership.

But let me tell you about the pre-requisites for civil disobedience. The Bible calls us to take a stand. But we don’t just charge out into the streets. There are some things that we need to do to prepare for what’s coming. The first step, I’m just going to give you two steps. The first step is to distinguish our battles. In other words, we have become a culture that views everybody who disagrees with us about any issue as evil or wicked or bad. And you have to be exactly like me for me to accept you.
What we need to come back to is we need to differentiate between political debates, issues in which reasonable people can hold opposing positions. We need to leave political debates in the realm of political disagreement. But we also need to know which topics, which items are non-negotiable, unshakable convictions that we hold and will stand by.

Let me give you some examples. In the realm of political debates, you may have strong feelings about immigration. You may have strong feelings about energy policy. I know on the first day of President Biden’s administration he’s already issued an Executive Order to shut down the XL pipeline. You may have strong opinions about health care spending and taxes. It’s OK for us to differ from the party in power and to disagree and to debate and to argue those things. But those are policies. Those are positions that reasonable people can disagree about. We don’t enact civil disobedience over political opinion differences.

But there are other issues that are not political issues. They’re issues of Natural Law. They’re issues of morality. They’re issues that we cannot negotiate. For example, abortion and abortion funding. I will never back away from attacking what, based on his campaign promises, what appears to be the most radically pro-abortion administration in American history. Now, we’ll have to wait and see how that plays out. But on this topic, this is not just a political issue that we can agree to disagree on. I will fight on this issue, with this administration as long as it takes.

Besides abortion, there are gender issues that are at stake. This President has already begun to roll back some of the changes that the last President made. His attitude is that trans-gender and other gender issues should have free reign. He has already in 24 hours set back modern feminism by decades by issuing orders that allow transgendered or male athletes to compete in women’s athletic events. If I was a woman who had been fighting for the right to participate on a level playing field, I would be pretty upset right now.

There are also freedom of religion and freedom of speech issues. I believe racial equality is a spiritual issue. These are not just political debates. These are issues we will take our stand on. Now it’s interesting racial equality has always been assumed to be a fight for equal standing for all people. That’s Martin Luther King. He wanted his children someday to be judged by the content of the character and not the color of their skin. We now have a President who’s already said he will arrange for Federal spending to be determined or to be prioritized by the color of the skin of the recipients. He didn’t just set us back ten years or twenty years. He set us back sixty years. He’s put us back in the segregation days. I’ll fight this.

Well, once we figure out those things that are actually issues that can call us to civil disobedience then we have to prepare our hearts for battle. And that’s where I want you hear these words. They come from Psalm 119, the longest chapter of the Bible. And in Psalm 119 there’s some fascinating verses. I just want to read this section. It begins in Psalm 119:126-128.

It is time for the LORD to act, For they have broken Your law.
Therefore, I love Your commandments Above gold, yes, above pure gold.
Therefore, I carefully follow all Your precepts concerning everything, I hate every false way.

Verse 133.
Establish my footsteps in Your word, And do not let any wrong doing have power over me.

Verse 136.
My eyes shed streams of water, Because they do not keep Your law.

Here is the pre-requisite for civil disobedience. First of all, we have to understand that prayer is our calling before battle in the streets. Our prayers have to be focused on a government that has specifically rejected the laws of God as revealed in His Word. But here’s our preparation. In verses 127 and 128 he calls us to pursue a holy obedience, to have an aversion to sin. We’re not ready to do battle against evil in the streets until our hearts are right before the throne of God.

He calls us in 133 to have a personal battle against sin’s control over us. The Psalmist says, “don’t let evil dominate in my own life.” We’ve got to make sure our motives are pure. We’ve got to make sure that we’re not fighting just because we love to fight.

But then verse 136. I want to read this verse again because this is where I want us to end. It says, “My eyes shed streams of water, Because they do not keep Your law.” We live in an outraged culture. But I want to ask you this question. When was the last time in prayer, praying for those who have rejected the truth of God’s Word, when was the last time you shed tears of sadness over the state of our nation? I meet a lot of angry Christians. But you know, I don’t meet very many broken-hearted Christians. And before we’re ready for civil disobedience, we need to let God break our hearts.

Here’s the bottom line. We have a lot to fight for. And we will in the days ahead. But before we fight, we need to prepare our hearts for battle. We have a new President. But we have the same God. And we win.

This is TruthCurrents.

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