I come back to this with a heavy sigh. I started it yesterday as the news unfolded of people breaching the Capitol building as the Trump rally changed gears. I know there were people there peacefully gathering, but a good many of them crossed the line.
As I watched the events unfold, I struggled to find some solid ground to stand on as I see people who call themselves Christians continue to support Trump regardless of what he says and does. At best, he sent mixed messages that were ambiguous enough to encourage what happened. At worst he incited insurrection, and stood by watching it happen, saying nothing until it was too late. Even then, it was a poor excuse for what he should have said.
The thing that troubles me most as I think about these things is the way Christians who support Trump and this “resistance” at at all costs ignore Scripture that is inconvenient. Paul defined the way followers of Jesus Christ should act regarding authority:
“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.”
Peter, the rock on whom Jesus said he would build his church, said the same thing:
“Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him….”
1 Peter 2:13-14
If anyone thinks insurrection is justified because Democrats are “bad” today, consider that Peter and Paul said these things at a time when their world was ruled by Nero.
Nero was a bad leader, even by pagan, Roman standards. He considered himself God. He persecuted Christians and had them publicly killed, setting them on fire at night to light the City. Peter and Paul were both martyred under the rule of Nero.
Democrats are not nearly as bad as Nero. Peter’s and Paul’s words were spoken at a time much worse than the political squabbling today. We can’t justify resisting authority because Democrats are bad – not when we consider the context in which Peter and Paul told believers to respect governing authorities!
At the same time, I am aware that people may justify their resistance on other grounds. Peter, himself, resisted the governing authority in the Book of Acts. Peter and John were arrested for preaching. (Acts 4:2-3) They were commanded not to preach about Jesus, but Peter and John refused to comply, saying,
“Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
They were arrested again for refusing to remain quiet. (Acts 5:20) Again, they were commanded not to speak. Again, they responded, “We must obey God rather than human beings!” (Acts 5:19) This time they were flogged and let go.
So which is it? Submit to authorities? Or boldly rebel?
It seems like a conundrum. Do we get to take our Pick?
Maybe those are not the right questions to ask. Maybe we need to be more careful to weigh the words of Peter and Paul together with their actions and divide the Word of God more accurately.Continue reading “How Should the Church Act Regarding Authority?”