The last installment dealt with how you should interact with your government. We learned that we are to obey our governments because they have have been ordained/appointed by God and that we have a duty to pray for our government. Now we come to the most interesting part of God and government. How to deal with governments and rules that they may pass that violate God’s law.
God’s Law or Man’s Law: Which am I to follow?
This question poses a difficult dilemma for us. Most of us believe that we should focus our attention on obeying man’s laws (those enacted by your local governments) because that makes us good citizens of our local communities. However, I would argue something completely different. Yes you should obey the laws of your local communities so long as they don’t violate God’s laws, because God’s laws take a higher priority. Why? Because we citizens of God’s kingdom first.
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.Matthew 6:33 CSB
Martin Luther, the great reformer, is best known for arguing this point. His biggest issue with the ruling authorities of his time wasn’t that they had no authority, but that their laws clearly violated things taught in scripture. It was Luther’s belief that every action taken or law enacted must be tested by scripture, and if that action or that law violated scripture in any way then it is invalid.
Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen.Martin Luther at the Diet Worms (1521)
Luther clearly believed that to knowingly violate God’s word by following un-Godly laws would go against his conscience (his sense of right and wrong) because his conscience was grounded in scripture.
How Should You React to Un-Godly Laws
Like Marin Luther you should take a stand based on what God through his word and the guidance of the Holy Spirit tells you. You should never blindly follow along with what the world says because it is the easy course and it is what everybody else is doing. Remember God gave you a spirit of courage and not of fear. You must stand up for what you believe even if it costs you your life, your freedom, your friends, your neighbors or your family.
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.2 Timothy 1:7 CSB
Some Chaldeans took this occasion to come forward and maliciously accuse the Jews. They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “May the king live forever. You as king have issued a decree that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, drum, and every kind of music must fall down and worship the gold statue. Whoever does not fall down and worship will be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire. There are some Jews you have appointed to manage the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men have ignored you, the king; they do not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”Daniel 3:8-23 CSB
Then in a furious rage Nebuchadnezzar gave orders to bring in Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. So these men were brought before the king. Nebuchadnezzar asked them, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, is it true that you don’t serve my gods or worship the gold statue I have set up? Now if you’re ready, when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, drum, and every kind of music, fall down and worship the statue I made. But if you don’t worship it, you will immediately be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire — and who is the god who can rescue you from my power? ”
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied to the king, “Nebuchadnezzar, we don’t need to give you an answer to this question. If the God we serve exists, then he can rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and he can rescue us from the power of you, the king. But even if he does not rescue us, we want you as king to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.”
Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with rage, and the expression on his face changed toward Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He gave orders to heat the furnace seven times more than was customary, and he commanded some of the best soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and throw them into the furnace of blazing fire. So these men, in their trousers, robes, head coverings, and other clothes, were tied up and thrown into the furnace of blazing fire. Since the king’s command was so urgent and the furnace extremely hot, the raging flames killed those men who carried Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego up. And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego fell, bound, into the furnace of blazing fire.
The passage above from the book of Daniel gives you a perfect example of what it looks like to put God and his kingdom first. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused to bow down and worship the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. It would seem that it cost them their lives, but if you read on you see something amazing happens.
Then King Nebuchadnezzar jumped up in alarm. He said to his advisers, “Didn’t we throw three men, bound, into the fire? ”Daniel 3:24-30 CSB
“Yes, of course, Your Majesty,” they replied to the king.
He exclaimed, “Look! I see four men, not tied, walking around in the fire unharmed; and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”
Nebuchadnezzar then approached the door of the furnace of blazing fire and called: “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, you servants of the Most High God — come out! ” So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out of the fire. When the satraps, prefects, governors, and the king’s advisers gathered around, they saw that the fire had no effect on the bodies of these men: not a hair of their heads was singed, their robes were unaffected, and there was no smell of fire on them. Nebuchadnezzar exclaimed, “Praise to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego! He sent his angel and rescued his servants who trusted in him. They violated the king’s command and risked their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. Therefore I issue a decree that anyone of any people, nation, or language who says anything offensive against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego will be torn limb from limb and his house made a garbage dump. For there is no other god who is able to deliver like this.” Then the king rewarded Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon.
What should have been a pointless gesture towards the most powerful king in their region at that time was instead used to do good. God used Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego’s faith and trust in him to bring about a change in the heart of a ruler who clearly though more of himself than he did of other’s. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego’s willingness to die rather than disobey their God moved King Nebuchadnezzar so much that he changed.
These three men living in a foreign country and in exile from their homeland should serve as examples of how we should respond to evil and corrupt governments. You may think that your actions will have no lasting results, but God can use what you think is pointless and turn into something meaningful. You may not come out unscathed like Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego and Martin Luther, but your actions and your stand will be greatly used by God and you will receive your true reward in heaven for doing God’s will.