Sometimes I do feel like my soul is black and blue from the devil’s attacks. I know Satan is trying his best to intimidate the people of God today in America. We’ve come to a point in our nation where single shootings and violent attacks against innocents—many times, massive ones—are becoming commonplace. It’s often difficult to speak out against these attacks without being labeled as racist. There is an implied suppression of dialog, especially toward those who would like to voice opposition to rioting and violence, but are white.
Last week I wrote an article about the Black Lives Matter movement that has drawn some criticism. You can find that article here: http://thecolleyhouse.org/sister-to-sister-black-lives-matter-theres-no-band-aid.Today I’d like to write about the topic one more time to be sure I leave no mistake about the message I want to convey. I know that the world does not revolve around what I think about this or any topic. The world does revolve around our God’s Will, so I want to take great pains to be sure I align myself and anything I say or write with that holy Will. I want my world view to be a Christian one rather than a political one. I do not wish to “take sides”…except with God. For the wisdom to do this, I always pray.
First, I want to be very clear in noting that brutality and unnecessary physical force committed by policemen against people of any color is always morally wrong. I know that, in our flawed system, it occurs and I’m deeply sorry for any case in which it has. Any officer who can will himself to abuse another person should face severe consequences at the hands of our legal system. Prejudgement by policemen of criminal activity or prejudging of policemen to be profilers or abusers is wrong.
But it is the Biblical response of the populace of nations that I want to notice. In the book of Exodus, the children of Israel were under a very extreme form of bondage to Pharaoh and Egypt. Their lives were made more and more difficult. I think it’s important to note that, while Pharaoh was afraid they were mighty enough to revolt, their response that was ultimately rewarded was crying out to the God who was able to deliver them (Exodus 2:23). At this point, they had no additional legal system through which they could work. I am aware that Moses, in defense of an assaulted brother, killed an Egyptian taskmaster. But I do not find approval of that killing or a call to public violence or rioting. The avenue through which God led them from bondage was not pretty, but it was clearly at His own hand rather than at the hand of violent people.
Was Pharaoh wrong in his treatment of Israel? Was he accountable to God for his behavior? Clearly. But the Lord was the One who provided the exodus from that cruelty and the destruction of Pharaoh.
In the book of I Samuel, we see King Saul, a jealous man of rage, abusing David at every turn. David could have used his growing army to commit violence against Saul. On several occasions, he clearly had the opportunity and certainly the injustice of the whole situation must have plagued his soul. We see lots of evidence of this in the Psalms he penned. But his words were these:
And he said unto his men, The LORD forbid that I should do this thing unto my master, the LORD’S anointed, to stretch forth mine hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the LORD (I Samuel 24:6).
And he said them multiple times on multiple occasions. Was Saul unjust, abusive, and brutal toward David? He surely was. But David reacted within the confines of the will of God even in a situation in which He was the object of Saul’s plot to murder.
Again, in the book of Esther, we see Anti-Semitism at it’s worst in a man named Haman. He wanted the Jews to be annihilated every bit as badly as Hitler ever did. God’s system, once again, was to work though peaceful petition and the system of law to resolve the situation.
Was Haman unjust and abusive toward an innocent people? Yes. But the prayers of those people coupled with the bravery of Mordecai and Esther to work through the will of the current government was the way change was effected.
In Romans 13, we find the strong New Testament admonition for God’s people to respect the government under which they find themselves. Here it is:
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.
Now, there are some things about this passage that I do not fully understand. But there are at least a couple that are clear.
- Governing authorities have been instituted by God. There is not one that derived its power from any other than God.
- We are to obey them for two reasons: because we fear wrath if we do not and because our conscience demands it.
Scholars debate as to whether parts of this passage apply to the government of Nero, the cruel and inhumane ruler of Rome at the time of the writing, because obviously as a persecutor of Christians, Nero was a terror to both good conduct and bad. While I cannot be positive about that (perhaps the apostle was giving a general command accompanied by a general principle about those in authority), there is no getting around the fact that Paul was instructing civil obedience even in circumstances where governments were not Christian-friendly…even in situations where governments did not get justice correct every time…even when there is persecution to be faced at the hands of that government. Of course, Paul was, at this time headed for some of that persecution.
One more example. I know this one is different because of the purpose of the whole situation. But our Lord was brutalized by the “police” in Jerusalem during that night of the Passover and the following day. He made a statement to Pilate just after Pilate had flogged him and allowed his soldiers to put the thorns on his head and strike him in the face. Here is the amazing statement Jesus made when Pilate asked him if he knew that he (Pilate) had the power to release him or put him (Jesus) to death. Here is the reply of Jesus: “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above.”
Was Pilate wrong to brutalize, flog, unjustly accuse and deliver Jesus to death? Of all the injustices ever committed, this was the most unjust. Yet, in the darkest hours of human history our Lord nailed down the source of the authority of government…even of a governor such as Pilate.
Someone may object at this point: “But you know that God did, at times endorse revolt against wicked governments. Remember back in the book of judges when God specifically instructed his people to destroy the governments of Canaan, even killing the citizenry and plundering the cities?” Yes. But the key to understanding those situations is in the question itself. God specifically instructed. He did that with clarity in passages like Joshua 3:9-13 where He listed the nations to be overthrown and even gave the Israelites signs that He would be with them as they did this. He did this in I Samuel 15:1-3 with regard to Amalek. He gave precise and detailed instructions and punished King Saul when His orders were not fully followed. He specifically instructed. He, the completely just God, gave the specifics. For our era, He has also specifically spoken about governments and that instruction is in Romans 13.
Surely my heart goes out to those who have been unjustly accused or stricken…citizens and officers. The word is clear, though, about our respect for the government under which we live, whether or not that government is just. Revolt, rioting, violence and anger are not responses Christians can condone. Unbiased logic would lead one to believe that the support of the Black Lives Matter movement implicitly encourages those responses.
Finally, Christians are the ones who are now on the brink of what may be a large scale persecution at the hands of a government that seems bound to force ministers to marry gay couples, bakeries to share in homosexual celebrations, and bed-and- breakfasts to knowingly provide rooms for the sin of homosexuality. Now is the time to stand in legal forums, to protest with your voices and votes, to continue to speak the Word of God in all of the arenas in which we have a voice. But there may be a day when we are forced to suffer because we speak the truth about this subject. When that day comes, we will suffer, but we will not join the ranks of any who react with violence or harm to neighbors, community and/or law enforcement officials. The government will be on the wrong side of truth. It will be wicked. But it will still be the government.