When Is It Right To Disobey The Government?
When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously. Then these men came by agreement and found Daniel making petition and plea before his God. — Daniel 6:10-11
There are two ways a man is swayed toward disobedience. The first is by a sin of commission or blatantly doing the wrong thing. The second is by a sin of omission or not doing the right thing. And in the story of Daniel's life, we see illustrations of both and how God's man should respond. If you recall, at the beginning of the book, Daniel was pressured by government legislation to eat food that was considered religiously unclean. Consuming the king's food would've been considered a sin of commission. And Daniel navigated that moment beautifully. But in this instance, we see an illustration of the latter. The government and its legislation are pressuring Daniel to omit obedience. To cease and desist in his worship of God. But Daniel refuses. He will continue worshiping his God, and his obedience to God results in disobedience to the government.
This is a question many men in our time have had in recent years. The question is, "When is it right to violate a law of our land?" Many secularists would say it's right for us to violate when the rule of law becomes immoral, unjust, or just feels oppressive. But there are all kinds of problems with this understanding. It often leads to anarchy on the streets because the individual or individuals feel free to determine morality, justice, and the lines of oppression. But for the Christian, we have a rule of Law. We have God's Law. And we believe this is the highest law. At the same time, we also understand that under God's Law, he has established institutions like the family, the church, and government. These institutions are tools by which order is maintained. But these institutions sometimes make decisions or rulings that compete with God's Law. And in these moments, we have an obligation to disobey to obey God. This may mean there will be a moment in your life when you will have to disregard your government, your parent, your spouse, or your pastor. But we should approach these moments with respect and dignity to God, others, and his institutions. Daniel did. He hears the edict. He knows that it's in effect for 30 days. He knows it's entrapment. And yet he still opens his window to worship the Lord. So he disobeys the government but does it respectfully, knowing there will be consequences for his civil disobedience.
Gentlemen, God might be calling you to some form of civil disobedience today. Disobedience to a parent, spouse, friend, boss, or even a governing official. But remember, if you must do this, you are doing it to be obedient to God, not to get your way in disobedience to authority. And it should be done with respect and dignity, knowing that God made all mankind in his image and created governing institutions to uphold his law. But remember, civil disobedience comes with risk. We risk a friendship, career, finances, humiliation, and maybe even our life when the stakes are high enough. But in the end, being obedient to God is what God wants from us all. His law is the highest law.
And one little additional caveat here. Daniel didn't protest everything at every moment. Remember, he was enslaved for 70 years at this point. The entirety of his life was spent serving a government that worshipped other gods and men who thought they were gods. Daniel only had a few moments in all this time he disobeyed the government, yet when he did, it became a big moment, not for him, but God.
ASK THIS: Is God calling you to some act of civil disobedience?
DO THIS: If so, do it with dignity and respect.
PRAY THIS: God, you are my Lord. May my desires and actions represent you.
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