In his book, A Christian Manifesto, Francis Schaeffer wrote, “If there is no final place for civil disobedience, then the government has been made autonomous, and as such, it has been put in the place of the Living God.” This man was not a wild eyed revolutionary, but a highly respected theologian and scholar who wrote, at length, about the relationship of the Christian to the society around him. The great body of his work showed a greater concern for pleasing his creator than pleasing the people with whom he lived.
He wrote about what should be for each Christian, a decision point where he or she must make up their mind whether to submit to unjust government edicts or stand up for what is right. In the past, many believed the admonition to be a good citizen and do everything they were told to do by existing authorities was an absolute command. However, in looking at why governments are ordained by God, we see that they exist to be God’s “ministers” or “servants”.
When they demand actions that are contrary to His word, they move out from this umbrella of divine approval and the Christian must evaluate his response. Even Albert Einstein understood this when he advised, “Never do anything against conscience even if the State demands it.” However we do not build our lives on the musings of a physicist, no matter how gifted he was.
Civil disobedience is something we read about in many admired leaders of the past. Names like King and Bonhoeffer often come to mind. Martin Luther King Jr. was a godly man who stood up against unjust laws that made his people second class citizens, and thousands followed him in his decision not to comply. He simply would not be quiet and take his place at the back of the bus. One has to wonder how far the civil rights movement would have gotten without his courageous and principled leadership in the face of physical intimidation and threats of death.
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