When should Christians say enough is enough, rally, and fight the government?
The Apostles said we must submit to rulers and authorities (Titus 3). However, we should also obey God than men; “Expose evil” and rebuke sinners (Eph. 5:11; Luke 17:3). But then Jesus commands us to love sinners, and pray for those who persecute us (Mt. 5:44). Isn’t that contradicting?
The best way to answer if Christians should resist and fight the government is to look at Biblical examples of submission.
Jesus made a moral judgment of people
Jesus used metaphors like “dogs and pigs” to people undeserving of grace. Such descriptors were debasing in Jewish culture (Mt. 7:6). But then, Jesus also commanded us not to judge anyone based on appearance (John 7:24). Isn’t that confusing?
Nehemiah, Mordecai, and Queen Esther
The most cited example to fight the government is Nehemiah and Queen Esther. Wealthy Jews enslaved their fellow brothers. Nehemiah led a “great protest” and used his influence to defend them against usury (Ne. 5:1-7). Four decades after, Mordecai and Esther used their position to save the Jews by exposing evil. (Esther 5:8)
King Artaxerxes and King Xerxes listened
As cupbearer, King Artaxerxes trusted Nehemiah the most. He was loyal and respectful. Likewise, King Xerxes obliged Esther because she was submissive to the crown. Even though she was Queen, she remained a humble subject. She exposed evil (Eph. 5:11), but she submitted herself to the King’s authority.
→ Red flags of an abusive pastor.
Queen Esther was submissive to the crown, a humble subject.
Elijah, Luther, Bonhoeffer, Graham
Prophet Elijah rebuked the evil King Ahab, following a direct order from God. Martin Luther fought church leaders by writing a thesis. Dietrich Bonhoeffer helped Nazi resistance while Billy Graham fought for the civil rights of black people to hear the Gospel.
After Bonhoeffer objected Nazi policies, he could no longer preach or publish books. On the other hand, Graham won the hearts of Presidents and a Queen by winning them for Christ.
Graham won the hearts of Presidents and a Queen by winning them for Christ.
God’s take on government
- He “establishes” ALL government, good or bad. (Romans 13:1)
- He “removes” leaders according to His plan. (Daniel 2:20-22)
- God raised “evil rulers” in the past to judge a nation. (Habakkuk 1:6)
Jesus, Apostle’s take on government
Based on the examples, Christians should not resist or fight the government. Even without a Ph.D. in religious studies, the Biblical principles of submission is explicit, unless we’re asked to renounce our faith. Consider the following.
- Jesus did not incite people against their ruthless Emperor. (Luke 23:5)
- Jesus refused to be involved in political debate. (Mt. 22:15-22)
- The Apostles were persecuted, yet they did not preach retaliation but submission. They dispersed, focused on preaching, and planted churches. (Acts 8:4)
- Paul willingly submitted to divine imprisonment without grumbling and escaped when the LORD told him so. (C. Swindol; Philippians 2:14-15)
- Early Christians disobeyed the Emperor because they were told to renounce their faith. We must obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29).
Jesus refused political involvement.
Bottom-line, what battle are you fighting for?
In the New Testament, Jesus’ followers fought the battle for souls. If you think God is calling you to resist or rally against the government, keep in mind unbelievers are often called for that. Jesus respected authority, but it does not mean He approved it.
If the government is killing the innocent and persecuting Christians, do what you can to save your life and the lives of others. This is what Christians in China and the Middle East are doing to spread the Gospel.
In His time, God will replace evil rulers. Ask yourself:
- What does Jesus ask of me?
- What is the “great commission”?
- What qualifies me to tell the government what to do?
Jesus’ followers fought the battle for souls