At at time when governing authorities throughout the world slowly herd those in Christ into pens for the sake of persecution, how should we respond? Often those who feel aggrieved take to the streets, demanding to be heard, demanding respect, demanding change. At times the Apostle Paul acted as a street preacher. He debated in public squares, in synagogues, and anywhere anyone would engage. Jesus, too, was a street preacher.
But consider their methods. They were not looking to honor themselves, but God. Though a cause may be just and necessary, our presentation is often the thing people remember.
Where is the line between capitulation and peaceful resistance? Between effect action and exuberant adoration of one’s self? Paul wrote:
Governing authorities are established by God. Everyone must submit. Governing authorities have been established by God. He who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted. Romans 13:1-2
For governing authorities are God’s servants to do you good. Romans 13:4
Governing authorities are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrong doer. Therefore submit because of your conscience. Romans 13:4-5
Give everyone what you owe. If taxes, pay taxes. If revenue, then revenue. If respect, then respect. If honor, then honor. Romans 13:6-7
Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor. 1 Peter 2:13-25
Be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good. Titus 3:1
Fear the Lord and the king, my son, and do not join with rebellious officials, for those two will send sudden destruction on them, and who knows what calamities they can bring? Proverbs 24:21-22
But what about when the kingdom of man, its laws and rulers are in conflict the Kingdom of God and His laws?
The apostles were brought in and made to appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.” Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than man!” Acts 5:27-28
Pilate said, “Don’t you realize I have power [over] you?” Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.” John 19:10-11
Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to God? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” Acts 4:18-20
Perhaps our response, when forced to choose between submitting to the kingdom of man and the Kingdom of God, is found in Paul’s words: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18 And if peace is not possible, resist peacefully, even to the point of imprisonment and persecution. For it is not we who are aggrieved, but Christ, for He lives in us.