Respect and Revolution
Both of the questions that came up in our Q&A time this past Sunday were related to the more general question of whether or not there are limits when it comes to the issue of Christians being subject to authority.
We saw in our lesson from Sunday (“Who's the Boss?”) that understanding what the Bible teaches us about vocation helps us understand what the Bible teaches us about submitting to all authorities, whether in the church, at work, or in regard to the government. I tried to summarize this teaching by stating, “...of all people, followers of Christ must demonstrate that we understand what it means to be under authority, that we recognize God's design for authority, and that we know who is ultimately in charge.” In the Scriptures we looked at, this was discussed in the context of both civil leaders and household leaders/masters.
That being said, does the Scripture teach us to obey all authorities without any qualification or exception? The answer is a resounding “No”. If human leaders call us to do what is contrary to our Heavenly leader, we are not to submit. One online source summarized the biblical examples of this:
Examples of God’s people practicing civil disobedience include Peter and John defying the Sanhedrin (Acts 4:19; 5:29), the Hebrew midwives refusing to practice infanticide (Exodus 1:15-17), Daniel ignoring the Persian law concerning prayer (Daniel 6:10), and Daniel’s friends refusing to bow to the king’s image (Daniel 3:14-18). (from “Gotquestions.org” (see link below))
But all of us know some situations are not this cut and dry. Throughout the centuries, Christians have debated whether or not there are times when it is justified to resist, or even revolt the established authorities. And the idea of vocation should be part of this conversation. If a supervisor or Senator, a magistrate or manager is violating his or vocation by doing the opposite of what they are supposed to be doing, can their authority still be called God-ordained (e.g. Hitler as the civil leader of Germany during WWII or a boss who is exploiting his or her employees)? We also must consider our vocations in light of these kind of difficult scenarios. How does our calling as a citizen of a democratic nation or as an employee in a particular corporation affect how we can address such abuses?
These are important questions to consider. I've included a couple links below that may be helpful in thinking more about this topic. Wherever you 'land' in regard to this or that specific situation, let all of us commit ourselves, in dependence on God's Spirit, to making humility, patience, respect, and love the foundation for all our responses, at work, or any place we have these opportunities.