By Ps. Wilson Lim
As we look around the governments and nations today, we see many citizens disagreeing strongly with their governments.
We have Extinction Rebellion fighting for the Australian government to act much more strongly on climate change. They are rebelling by gluing or tying themselves to roads, trains, infrastructure and other ways to block normal progress of businesses or residents. The government is responding by enacting laws to ban some aspects of their disruptive behaviours. Similar things are occurring in UK.
We have Catalonians in Spain protest movement pushing for independence. Barcelona is capital of Catalonia and Rafa Nadal is Catalan. Historically the Catalan were their own kingdom until they progressively were united with another kingdom to form Spain. The Catalans always kept their distinctions. However, increasing tensions arose from the 17th century onwards at different times. Wars were fought even. In the 20th century, Catalan was given autonomy. In 2017 Catalonia declared independence by a referendum which Spain viewed as illegal and the Catalonian government was dismissed. Many Catalonians protested in the streets, the largest about 0.5 million people. The Spanish government has been dealing harshly with the separatist movement. There were many clashes and violence.
Then there is the Hong Kong protests which started against the Extradition Bill by the Hong Kong government. The bill would enable local authorities to extradite Hong Kong residents to China and be subject to Chinese law. This would undermine the region’s autonomy and civil liberties. Gradually additional demands were made as part of the protests. Although the protests started peacefully, gradually violent elements crept in partly due to some police brutality. However, there are claims that some of these violence were faked.
Lebanon is in upheaval as hundreds of thousands of protestors demanded the resignation of its government. Violence broke out amongst the government supporters and the anti-government protestors. The Prime Minister Hariri finally announced the resignation of his government in Oct 29, 2019.
Martin Luther King Jr led the most famous civil protest movement in USA against the systemic discrimination against the African-Americans. He advocated non-violence and led the protest movement for over a decade until he was assassinated in 1968. The movement succeeded in obtaining equality to the African-Americans in terms of their civil rights.
Where should Christians stand on these?
1. Submit to authority Rom 13:1-7 as all authority is appointed by God. Also 1 Pet 2:13-17
- Context of Romans 13:1 is the rule of Roman Empire. The Romans either conquered or subjugated nations who bowed to them. Hence, Apostle Paul was teaching these to submit to even conquering nations.
- Obey only if their requirements do not contradict Scripture. Acts 5:29 showed Peter refusing to obey the religious leaders as they required them to stop preaching about Christ. Exodus 1 showed Hebrew midwives who refused to obey Pharaoh’s edict to kill all Jewish newborns. Hence, we cannot obey any unbiblical requirements by governments.
- But what if God wants them removed? In OT we see this when other nations oppress or rule over Israel. God raised up deliverers to free the nation. In such cases, we should submit to God who is the highest authority rather than any government which have been delegated authority.
2. Stand up for righteousness
- John the Baptist stood up to declare the sins of King Herod. Luke 3:19-20
- OT prophets who declared sin of Israel and other surrounding nations. Amos 1-2 is an example.
- At times some prophets did public acts to highlight their prophesies, like covering themselves in ashes, demonstrating through object lessons etc.
- But there is a price to standing up to declare unrighteousness. John the Baptist was beheaded. Many OT prophets were exiled or killed.
- What can we conclude? There is a place to declare the unrighteous acts of government, and this can include civil disobedience and protesting. However, it is important to honour authority as much as possible out of an attitude of desiring to submit to authority delegated by God. However, in the protests and civil disobedience non-violence should be practised. As violence often does not honour authority and leads to even more emotional and physical damage.
3. Wisdom to know what to stand up for and how.
- Jesus only declared sin of religious leaders, not the Roman Empire. Why? Because His objectives was to bring the people of Israel back to God and to Him as Saviour.
- Jesus only started declaring after He was 30 years old. Not before. There is a timing.
- Believers need wisdom to know when and how. The church needs wisdom to know when and how.
- We also need to look to God for His intervention, not human ways of obtaining a solution.
4. Recognise that our citizenship is firstly in heaven.
- We have to realise that our citizenship is firstly in heaven. We owe an allegiance to our nation as good citizens. However, our greater allegiance is to heaven. Our contribution to our nation needs to align to the principles of the Kingdom of God.
- If our nation requires us to do things which contradict God’s principles, we should not do so. No nation fully walks in God’s ways. No government is fully aligned with God. I doubt today there exists any government that even comes close to that. Some governments are very far from God.
- We must not be naïve about our governments. Reading widely from many different sources will help us obtain a more balanced view of governments and their policies and actions.
5. Remember the family of God
What if 2 or more nations are at war with each other and which we are citizens of?
- For a global movement this will occur to our members. We must always remember that our greatest allegiance is to heaven first and our spiritual family transcends all national boundaries, cultural and racial ties. There is Jew, Greek or Gentile, man or woman, etc distinctions that should separate us from being one family in God. Believers must learn to look beyond our earthly citizenships and our national preferences to align firstly with the Kingdom of God. All we do should seek to give glory to God.
- The Enemy will seek to divide us through all means. We should not give Him the opportunity to do so. Our ignorance of his schemes will allow the Enemy to bring division.
- Be wise and careful about making statements about governments of other nations and the populace unless we have a better understanding of the situation. It is always better to ask questions to learn than to make quick statements about situations we are not fully familiar with.
Our hearts should always be to submit to authority, for that honours God who delegated authority. Unfortunately, not all use their delegated authority as God intended. If they demand unbiblical actions, we cannot obey. If they are unrighteous, we can call out the unrighteousness. This can include civil disobedience and protests. However, such should be non-violent and respectful.
If it appropriate to call out every unrighteousness? One must be wise on what to stand up for, how and when we do so.
In cases where conflict occurs between nations, believers should be careful not to be polarised by it. Instead we should remember that we are one family under God. Our allegiance is first to the Kingdom of God more than our earthly allegiances.