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A Few Comments About Civil Disobedience

NOTE: The focus of this article is on one's relationship to civil authorities. However, the principles given are applicable to any situation in which one person is under another person's authority.

It is important to realize that all legitimate authority structures share a common feature: Each is a reflection of the basic principle expressed in the command: "Honor your father and your mother" (Exodus 20:12a). This being the case, the way we respond to authority is a very serious matter.

1. We have an obligation to submit to legitimate authorities that have been placed over us.

2. If, at any time, a human authority tries to get us to do something that goes against God (the ultimate authority over all other authorities), it is our obligation to disobey the human authority and to obey God.

3. If we must disobey a human authority, for the sake of obedience to God, we must maintain the proper attitude of respect and honor for that human authority. We must also willingly submit to whatever consequences we receive because of our disobedience (including punishment, though unjust).

4. In all things, we must maintain a godly attitude. Also, we must not try to take matters into our own hands (seeking retaliation, for instance). Rather, we must commit the situation to him who is the final Judge of all.

A Few Additional Comments about One's Attitude Toward Authority:

In the Old Testament., prophets had authority over kings. They could confront kings and speak to them in ways that nobody else would have dared. They had authority to give commands to kings (commands they received from God), and if necessary, even to condemn them (based on the king's response to God's Word). Yet we see, in Jeremiah, a person who was willing to maintain a godly attitude, even when his life was being threatened by people who were lower in authority than he was.

Even greater was the authority that Jesus had - the one who is Lord over all creation. When he was being tortured and crucified by people who were much lower in authority, he also maintained a godly attitude. He could have uttered threats and made many vengeful remarks to those who were doing this to him (compare with 1 Peter 2:22-23a). He could have easily sent an army of angels to destroy them all (Matthew 26:53-54). By just uttering the word, he could have come down off the cross and saved himself (compare with Luke 23:37). But love kept him on the cross. He chose rather to say, "Father forgive them" (Luke 23:34).

We need to consider these things, when we are choosing our own response to unjust suffering caused by others (Matthew 5:38-42; Luke 6:27-31).


1) Make sure that the things you plan to do are truly what GOD says you must do.

2) Make sure that your "values" are not upside-down.

3) Make sure that you have a godly attitude.

OTHERWISE - if you have not met the above requirements:

1) You will deserve any punishment you may get. (1 Peter 2:20a)

2) If people associate your actions with your "faith," you may become guilty of driving them away from the truth. People may end-up cursing God, instead of turning to him, because of your sin. (Compare to Romans 2:24.)

3) Ultimately, you will have to give account to God for your actions. Then, at the Day of Justice, everyone will know that your actions did not have his approval.

Dennis Hinks © 1999