When should Christians say 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?
When social justice should be demanded from authority
- Medieval Christians fought for humanism led by the likes Erasmus, Thomas More. Luther stood against the abusive Roman authority.
- William Wilberforce used politics to suppress black slavery, with the passing of the Slave Trade Bill in 1807.
- Apologist John MacArthur always encouraged submission to a government authority. Recently, he refused to obey California’s ban on church gatherings.
→ Christian activists twist social justice in the Bible.
Submission to authority is a controversial topic. The best way to answer if Christians should rally and fight the government is to look at Biblical examples:
Elijah, Nehemiah, Mordecai, and Queen Esther
- Hebrew midwives disobeyed Pharaoh (Exodus 1:15-22).
- Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s refused the king’s command.
- Daniel defied the royal decree against prayer.
- God told a “Prophet” to rebuke and confront the evil King Ahab. (1 Kings 18)
- Wealthy Jews enslaved fellow Jews. Nehemiah was so angry and led a “great protest.” He defended the oppressed against usury. (Ne. 5:1-7)
- Mordecai and Queen Esther used their position to save the Jews by exposing the evil Haman. (Esther 5:8)
A prophet’s role is to pull down or build-up, God gave Elijah the “right” to be confrontational (Jer 1:10). That is what prophets do. On the other hand, as a cupbearer, Nehemiah was devoted and respectful to King Artaxerxes that he helped him rebuild the temple (Ne 2:5). The “great protest” was against his fellow Jews, not the King.
Likewise, King Xerxes obliged Esther because she was submissive to the crown. Even though she was Queen, she remained a humble subject (Esther 7:1-10). She exposed evil (Eph. 5:11), but she submitted herself to the King’s authority.
→ Red flags of an abusive pastor.
they argued their case with respect and submission, not with criticism.
Jesus too 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). Well, Jesus alone knows the hearts of men.
Luther, Bonhoeffer, Graham
- Catholic Priest Martin Luther fought the church by writing a thesis.
- Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer helped Nazi resistance with dire consequences.
- Billy Graham fought the civil rights of black people to hear the Gospel.
Luther’s thesis ignited the Reformation. 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.
The Bible’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’ take on government
Even without a Ph.D. in religious studies, the Biblical principles of submission is explicit, unless we’re told to renounce our faith. Jesus’ example is clear:
- Jesus did not incite people against their ruthless Emperor. (Luke 23:5)
- Jesus refused to be involved in political debate. (Mt. 22:15-22)
- Jesus knew the need for social-political change, but He came for another battle: To save souls, and He commands you to make disciples, not change the government (Matthew 28:18-20), Unbelievers often do that activism part.
- Early Christians disobeyed authority when told to worship the Emperor. The Roman government transmuted into a divine state, above reproach. We must obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29).
Jesus knew the need for social-political change, but he came for another battle.
Bottom-line, what battle are you fighting for?
Evil and corruption in any government will never rest. Jesus knew that, but it does not mean He approved it. His followers fought the battle for souls. If the government is killing the innocent and persecuting Christians, do what you can to save your life and the lives of others like what Corrie Ten Boom did.
If the government bans church gatherings – refuse it because it interferes with our worship. However, be prepared to face consequences. Christians in the past had to gather in secret.
Defend the Gospel like what Nabeel & Ravi did and be a good Christian example, like Tim Tebow, who devotes his life in helping others. In His time, God will replace evil rulers and will raise unbelievers to do that. 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.