Preachers are to be leaders, but many of our leaders are not leading whenever the matter of resistance to authority arises. We must understand that whenever government goes contrary to Scripture, we have no alternative but to obey the Scripture.
An overlooked accomplishment of ministers and churches is their success in the dueling controversy. John M. Mason, Lyman Beecher, Timothy Dwight (president of Yale), and other preachers led their churches to get involved as churches in trying to change the dueling laws. They were successful, but almost no one knows about that success.
What do you think those preachers would have done if the government had sent them forms asking if they had taken a position on political issues like slavery and dueling? What if they had been asked to give the position they took on those issues, and estimate the amount of time given to those issues? Do you think they would have complied? Should they have complied?
Well, some California pastors did just that regarding the issues of sodomy, abortion, etc.! Preachers should be the conscience of America. We should hold up a standard of righteousness that all decent people can rally to, and we should never send church reports to any government agency reporting on our “positions.”
In 1662, the Act of Uniformity was passed in England and 2,000 Puritan preachers refused to sign, consequently losing their pulpits and many going to jail. Do you know many preachers who would be willing to lose their pulpits and go to jail for doing right? I know many who have always preached that truth, but few who practice it.
Much of the Reformation was an act of resistance and the preaching of John Knox is a good example. This lawyer accepted the call to preach and preach he did! He pointed out the heresy in the Roman Catholic Church, and was arrested and spent two years as a galley slave. (I suppose they even withdrew his American Express card since galley slaves, while they travel a great deal, don’t have much income.) When he was released, he continued to preach, and even smuggled pamphlets into England.
Knox was not against government, but he wrote, “Kings then have not an absolute power in their regiment to do what pleases them; but their power is limited by God’s word.”
Many would disagree with Luther who said, “But if as often happens the temporal powers…would compel a subject to do something contrary to the will of God or hinder him from doing what God commands, obedience ends and the obligation ceases.”
After Luther was condemned as a heretic he continued to preach contrary to the law. Wonder what modern day preachers would have done? Most soft Fundamentalists would have tried to convince Luther not to nail his 95 theses to the church door (since that’s confrontational) or would have tried to convince him to apply for a “permit to post a public notice.”
A leading, modern Fundamentalist would have said to him, “Hey, Martin, why rock the boat and start a fight with the Roman Church? After all, you know you can’t win against them. Try to reach a compromise. Why resist authorities until they tell you that you can’t preach the gospel?”
Luther could have “made an arrangement” with the Pope, stifled his conscience and lived a very peaceful life in the suburbs of Wittenberg had he listened to the likes of some modern preachers.
A Baptist pastor in Buffalo, New York was a modern hero when he resisted a judge who ordered him not to publicly read, quote, or preach from a verse in Psalms that talks of “rescue.” The preacher, involved in abortion protests, disobeyed the judge, and was in contempt of court. What else but contempt could one have for such a court? I say he was a hero. What do you say?