Recent events, including unprecedented tyrannical behavior, have left many Christians wondering how to respond to certain government mandates. As the last days draw nearer, more such dilemmas will occur, and as with anything else, we must always determine the proper course of action through studying the Word of God.
When the government moves to unconstitutional or unbiblical laws or mandates, the question often arises as to whether or not civil disobedience is in order.
Merriam Webster defines civil disobedience as a “refusal to obey governmental demands or commands, especially as a nonviolent and usually collective means of forcing concessions from the government.”
Given this definition, the question remains: Is refusing to obey a governmental demand ever biblical?
What Biblical Civil Disobedience Is Not
To understand what constitutes civil disobedience that is biblically backed, we first must examine what biblical civil disobedience is not—a loophole for policies with which you find inconvenient or undesirable. For example, though most of us do not care for tax increases, the Bible is clear—“render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” (Mark 12:17, ESV). In paying taxes, we are not breaking God’s law or compromising our beliefs. In other words, simply disagreeing with a law is not grounds to willfully disobey.
Biblical civil disobedience is also not an act that stems from an angry or bitter heart (though holy anger is often appropriate and different from anger derived from the flesh). As with anything we say and do, the heart behind it is of the utmost importance to God. Even if you have a biblical reason to refuse to comply with a law or mandate, if your heart is wrong, your action will be wrong as well.
When Civil Disobedience Is Biblical
Throughout the Bible, you will find numerous scriptures commanding us to submit to leaders and authority honor for those in authority is a testimony to unbelievers, and it keeps our hearts clean and pure before God.
But what about when a law or government mandate is in direct opposition to the Word of God?
Let’s take a look at some examples from the Bible.
- When King Darius established a new law that prohibited worshipping God, Daniel did not obey this law, but rather, continued honoring the Lord and His Word
- When King Nebuchadnezzar issued a government order to bow down and worship a golden image or be put to death, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego would not obey this law, even unto death Daniel 3
- Esther risked her life by going against the law of the land and approaching the king without first having been summoned Esther 4-5
What about modern-day examples? There have been instances, increasingly so, in which the government has begun implementing policies with which Christians cannot comply without violating biblical principles. Only a few examples of countless instances include:
- The Colorado state government has ordered Andrew Wommack to shut down his in-person ministry activities, while allowing other organizations to continue. He has even been threatened with jail time if he continues. He is standing for his religious freedoms under the Constitution, as well as obeying what God has called him to do.
- Jack Phillips, a bakery owner in Colorado, has been sued multiple times for refusing to make wedding cakes celebrating same-sex marriages. His stand for biblical principles made it all the way to the Supreme Court.
- Multiple churches in California have been victims of unconstitutional religious discrimination, ordering them to cease meeting in person. Though they face fines and legal action, they have chosen to obey God over man.
These are just a few of many current challenges facing believers around the world. Christian businesses and churches have been at the forefront of this battle, including recent attempts to shut down the ability of Christians to honor by assembling together.
Above all, we must seek to live at peace with everyone, while using wisdom and the Word of God as our guide in how to respond to laws and mandates. While we strive to be good and honoring citizens of this world, ultimately, we are citizens of heaven and our allegiance must always lie there.