Standing for Truth and Defending Your Freedom
Standing for Truth and Defending Your Freedom

Disobedience to Authorities?

by John Rabe

"The Supreme Court has ruled, so all must now obey."

That is the oft-heard refrain, even from many Christian leaders, in the wake of the United States Supreme Court’s same-sex “marriage” ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges this past summer. 

Most Christians are well aware of the biblical commandments for Christians to be submissive to governing authorities (as stated in Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2). But is it possible that these commandments have been wrenched out of context and used as an excuse for Christian passivity in the face of dangerous government overreach?

Often missed in discussion of Romans 13 is the fact that the Apostle Paul, in casting the vision for the Christian’s role in civil society, also makes clear what the God-ordained role of government actually is. 

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist are appointed by God. … Rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil works. Do you wish to have no fear of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from him, for he is the servant of God for your good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain, for he is the servant of God, an avenger to execute wrath upon him who practices evil (Romans 13:1-4, emphasis added). 

Christians are to obey the government— and the government is to praise that which is good and punish that which is evil. 

But what happens when government ceases to be what God designed it to be? 

In the recent same-sex “marriage” case, the Supreme Court ordered state and local clerks around the country to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. In other words, the government ordered them to do what God clearly regards as sinful. God gives no human authority—including the Supreme Court or any local clerk—the right to redefine marriage, which is purely His creation. To issue a same-sex “marriage” license is to participate in the sinful redefinition of marriage. 

In Kentucky, Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis has taken a courageous stand. She refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses despite the Supreme Court’s ruling, because of her Christian convictions. U.S. District Judge David L. Bunning has accused Davis of “openly adopting a policy that promotes her own religious convictions at the expense of others.” This, of course, overlooks the fact that this is precisely what the Supreme Court itself did on a national level with its decision blithely waving away millennia of moral and religious teaching on the matter. 

When the state oversteps its rightful authority and intrudes itself into every area of life, conflict between the conscience of a Christianand the demands of such a government will necessarily result. The question is, what will we do when that conflict arises? 

Sadly, many Christian leaders urge capitulation, either citing a simplistic “submission” flowing from a truncated reading of Romans 13, or by claiming (with the world) that God’s rules only really apply within the church and the family. Neither is a correct option. God’s Word applies to everyone, and we have been commanded by Christ in the Great Commission to teach the nations all that He commands. Clearly, there are unusual times when disobedience to civil authorities is required, and we must say, with the Apostles, “we must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). 

The time has come for Christians to begin giving serious thought to areas in which obedience to God must force them to disobey the state. “I was just following orders” has never been an adequate defense for those who go along with unlawful government actions, or an excuse for rationalizing sin. 

Such decisions must never be made blithely or without adequate biblical reflection. Taking a stand according to Christian conscience may well come at a cost, including fines, loss of work, or even perhaps imprisonment (or worse). But in a nation where the government protects—and even funds—those who kill babies and sell their body parts, and where the highest court mandates the legality of “marriages” that God deems an abomination, only courageous Christian testimony that is backed by resolute immovability will effectively announce to the government powers that they are wrong. As with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego standing before the King, we say:

 “[God] will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods, nor worship the golden image which you have set up” (Daniel 3:17-18).