Under Attack!

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And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it—lest you even be found to fight against God.” — Acts 5:38-39

The Governor of New Mexico, Michelle Lujan Grisham, fired a shot across the bow of the church on Monday, December 28, by issuing $10,000 fines to two of the state’s largest churches and their pastors in Albuquerque for gathering together for traditional Christmas Eve Candlelight services. Several thousand were in open attendance.

This begs the question, “When the church comes under attack by the secular authorities and First Amendment rights are clearly being trampled, how should the church react?” Many make appeals to 1 Timothy 2 and Romans 13 which may call for a non-confrontational response.

At the same time others point to Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, who refused to worship Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image (Daniel 3); and Daniel who would not pray or give thanks to any but the one true God (Daniel 6); as well as in Acts 4 and 5 where the apostles clearly disobeyed their leaders when told not to preach the gospel.

To help me I turned to a trusted source for answers to that question. It comes from the pen of the late Charles Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship and his How Now Shall We Live? Devotional. His wonderful insight I believe serves to give us good answers.

In 1 Timothy 2, Christians are commanded to pray for those in authority. Why? Because, as Paul explains in Romans 13, government officials are God’s servants to preserve order and administer justice in the public arena (ecclesia). Paul doesn’t appear to limit his description to good rulers. In fact, he wrote these words during the reign of Nero, one of the cruelest, most vicious Roman emperors. This would lead one to believe that whether our rulers are good or bad, whether we agree or disagree with their policies, our duty is the same: to respect and pray for them.

That doesn’t preclude the criticizing of their policies—but even our criticisms should flow from an attitude of prayer toward their office. That being said, however, Colson believes the following recommendations have merit:

    • Respecting our leaders does not preclude disobeying the powers that be, but we may disobey only when to obey them would mean disobedience to God. Christians were thrown to the the lions in the first century, because they refused to say that “Caesar is Lord.”

    • Civil disobedience must be chosen whenever civil magistrates frustrate our ability to obey God. However, when we take this course, we must do so without resorting to violence. And we must be prepared to bear the consequences that a wicked magistrate will make against us (such as a $10,000 fine) albeit only after every available judicial appeal.

    • There are times when Christians must stand against an unjust regime. God ordains leaders, but they must act within the scope of the authority He has given them. If they repress religious freedom or slaughter the innocent, or trample human rights, they’re violating God’s trust by failing to carry out their biblically ordained duty to preserve order and to promote justice. When that happens, they’re no longer entitled to our allegiance.

Has that time come? My answer is in the affirmative. How about you? Remember friends, the government rests on the shoulders of Jesus (Isaiah 9:6) and we are “more than conquerors” (Romans 8:37). Maranatha!

Lord, remind us to pray for our leaders. Bless and use them, Lord, for your good and glorious purposes. Amen.

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