Preachers, who should be the first to warn of any kind of danger, are too often more concerned with maintaining their reputations than in fulfilling their responsibilities. They are scared of offending government by taking a strong stand; yet do not seem to be concerned with offending God by their cowardice. I remind them of the words of Augustine of Hippo who said that “godless civil rulers are no more than bands of robbers,” yet many preachers have made the robbers equal with God or above His Word!
I have often been asked why great preachers cannot see the harm they are doing in keeping silent about Christian resistance, and the answer is not easy. Many men have refused to look at the issue, while others have looked and have been scared to death. The scared group will often preach about taking a strong stand as long as they don’t have to be put on the spot and take that stand. They live in cold fear deep in the valley of compromise.
Then there are other preachers who tell us that they will resist only when they can no longer preach the gospel. (With most of these men, I believe it is the cop-out of the ages.) Frankly, many preachers have not been known to admit error very quickly! Also many eyes have been opened in recent years, but until proved wrong, I’ll believe most preachers are still using a white cane to cross the street!
Many Christians have made two mistakes in relation to government, having chosen one of two extremes. The one extreme is that government is totally evil, and we should have nothing to do with it. Don’t register to vote. Don’t write letters to officials. After all, we are citizens of another country, and Christ is coming back soon anyway. So just go to church, win souls, and tithe.
The other extreme is that everything government does is almost heaven-ordered, and Christians are commanded to obey in every respect. But government is legitimate only if it promotes justice. When the guilty are no longer punished, and the innocent are no longer protected, then government is not fulfilling its proper function.
Now just what is legitimate government? If there is “legitimate” government then there must be illegitimate government. Do you agree?
Suppose you awoke some morning to find that your elected officials had all been shot and a gang of thugs had taken over your city and state. All the judges had been replaced as had the county sheriff. The chief thug goes on television to announce that a new government is in control. Question: Are you obligated, as a Christian, to obey that government?
A government is not illegitimate because it was not voted into power (and this is no plea for dictatorship) nor because it is corrupt. (All governments are corrupt. If we knew how corrupt, we would be storming the Bastille!)
Government is illegitimate when the innocent are not protected and the villains are not punished. When those two failures are the outstanding characteristics of a government, the citizens have every right, yes, a duty to resist.
Just because thugs like Hitler, Mussolini, Tojo, and Stalin built good highways, safe railroads, schools and hospitals does not mean they were legitimate. They were not legitimate, and it is most amazing that some fundamentalist preachers tell Christians that we are required to obey such thugs at all times. I don’t know about you but I admire those who resisted those tyrants at risk of life.
However, Christians must be very careful not to take isolated incidents of injustice to justify personal rebellion. Of course, some preachers have accused us of that very thing thereby seeking to justify their silence. Any resistance must be based on biblical principles.
Following is an example of a layman who had the character to disobey officials because they were wrong, and to obey them would have been unchristian. A Santa Clara (California) County Sheriff was in a training class that was taught by a female instructor. The lady—oops—female instructor ordered the 18 men and women to strip to their shorts and panties. The deputy refused to strip so the department stripped him—of his job! He sued the county but an esteemed judge with esteemed rocks in his head threw out the suit. In my opinion, the judge and the instructor should have been thrown out.
Many fundamentalists would have advised the officer to comply with the order. I think he did right. What do you think?