Our theme for this month: “Life on this side of the cross”
Our Bible verse for today: “Remind them to submit to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to slander no one, to avoid fighting, and to be kind, always showing gentleness to all people.” Titus 3:1 (CSB)
Our thought for today: “Be part of the solution, not part of the problem.”
Recently in our country there have been many public protests regarding the stay-at-home orders currently in effect as a result of the COVID 19 pandemic. Beyond just the heated chatter on social media, crowds of people are now taking to the streets, defying the orders of government officials, and not even practicing social distancing.
Is it okay for Christians to be involved in such demonstrations? Engaging in civil disobedience is a fine line even for the average citizen regardless of faith issues, but for Christians it’s more complex because it is both a civil issue and a matter of faith.
Sometimes laws are unjust and have to be opposed, and sometimes Christians should be involved in civil disobedience. Christians were at the forefront of the abolition movement that eventually led to the end of slavery in this country. Christians played a huge role in the fall of communism in eastern Europe. And Christians have taken the lead in the fight against abortion in this country. Those are all good things, and in each of those cases it required Christians to stand opposed to governmental authorities.
But probably 99% of the time the right thing to do is to pursue change through legal means not civil disobedience. For Christians the issue is Biblical. The only time we find Christians in the New Testament refusing to obey the directions of civil authorities is when the civil law was in direct conflict with God’s law. Then Acts 5:29 comes into play, “We must obey God rather than men”. But there are no Biblical examples that would lead Christians to break laws and defy civil authority like we see right now on the streets of some of our towns and cities.
The other day somebody shared with me an interesting piece of history regarding this. It comes from the great leader of the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther. If you know your Christian history then you know that Luther was one of the most important and influential voices in Christianity in the last 500 years. He lived through the bubonic plague of 1527 and interestingly, the civil authorities of that day instituted the same kinds of social distancing and stay-at-home orders that are being used in our day for this pandemic. And, the Christians of that day had the same questions about it that we do today. So, they looked to Luther for guidance for what to do and here is what he wrote:
“I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I will fumigate, purify the air, administer medicine, and take medicine. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed, in order to not become contaminated, and thus perchance infect and pollute others, and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me. But I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person, but will go freely. This is a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy, and does not tempt God.”
As citizens we do have rights, and one of those rights is to voice our disagreement and dissent regarding laws and practices that we disagree with – but we have to be careful how we do it. Disobeying the law is not normally an option for Christians unless the civil law is in conflict with Biblical principles. When we do engage in dissent, we must be respectful rather than angry or mean-spirited or unkind. Titus 3:1 is just one verse from an entire body of Biblical literature which teaches that the people of God are to be good law-abiding citizens.
Luther was a help not a hindrance during the plague in his day, and that should be true of us too during this plague in our day. Be part of the solution, not part of the problem.