Episode 9

When is It OK to Disobey the Government?



July 29, 2021

Hey, everyone. Welcome to village church, Q and a, I’m Amanda. And I’m here with pastor Michael. And today we get to answer the question. When is it okay to disobey the government? Okay. So good luck. I’ll be back in a little bit. Thank you.

You abandoned me. Leave me to do this all by myself, Would have been super easy. Had it been, you know, two years ago and we weren’t dealing with COVID now COVID came and now huge bomb has gone off and everybody’s like, whoa, do is bolster do right now? Yeah, like there was one standard Answer for, I don’t know, a long time if you asked any pastor, they would say, when is it probably Right. When, when are you allowed to disobey the Government?

Well, you have to obey the government until they ask you to sin. And that’s been the standard pat answer. And it worked for a long time. And now in the last 18 months, that’s how long we’ve kind of been in COVID, uh, whether you are on the left in a red state or you’re on the right, in a blue state, there’s this kind of sense all across America that we’re like, we think the government is beginning to overreach. And, and in fact, some people you’re in a state where you can look at the constitution and say, well, this is what the constitution says, but this is what they’re doing. And then you’re wondering, okay, well now am I required to submit to them if they’re doing something unlawful? So, um, here’s what I want to do. I want to read to the two major new Testament passages of scripture on the Christian, submitting to the government. Uh, then I want to share two interpretations. The first one I do not like the second one I do like so, and then, um, our audience and you can decide which one you think is, is better. Maybe there’s a third, there’s two Of right.

At least there’s two there’s mine and none of them. All right. Romans chapter 13, verse One through four, I’ll read the first two verses 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. And he goes on in verse three and four to identify the judgment is not God coming down and smiting you, right? It’s that the authority, the governing authority has the sword or the ability to punish and discipline. And if you break their law, they will discipline you. Okay? So the second passage is from first Peter chapter two, verse 13 and 14. And here’s what Peter says. Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as Supreme or to the governors is sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.

All right, let’s talk about the first interpretation. It goes like this. The government says it or a governing authority says it. We need to do it unless it’s sin on the surface. That sounds great. Right on the surface. It sounds really, really good. Now there’s a problem. There is a big, huge difference between living in Rome, under an autocracy and living in America today in our Republic, they are very different systems of government. So in Rome, here’s how authority worked authority was vested in a person, the emperor, and in behalf of him, the governors, and then it goes on. And so the way it worked is that if the governor said it, it was law, period, didn’t Even have to be just, it didn’t have to clearly his opinion. Yep. You’re dead. See you later. No questions asked Illegal, change your mind, go on a whim. It doesn’t matter. So the person is bound in authority. They are the authority in a Republic in our nation authority. This is interesting because yes, we call them governing authorities. But actual authority is not bound up in a person it’s bound up in the law. Okay? So this is where our framers created a very different kind of government system where the people are given the freedom to vote. People out and authority is put into the laws and our governing officials are there to uphold and to enact the law, which is why they don’t. We don’t pledge allegiance to, or they don’t pledge, uh, fidelity to a person. They pledge fidelity to the constitution and to uphold its laws, because that is the ultimate authority. You can see these systems of government are very, very different. Now let’s take this interpretive principle and blow it up.

This is why I don’t think it works. All right. So here’s the principle. And I’ll 30 tells you to do something in America. You have to do it as long as it’s not sin. All right. A police officer pulls you over and he says, Amanda, I am an authority. I’m on duty. I want you to drive me to seven 11 so that I can buy a red bull. What do you say? No. Are you violating Romans 13? Because the principle is, if a governing authority requires me to do something, I am obligated to do it. Unless it’s sin, it’s not sin for you to drive a police officer over to seven 11 to get a red bull neutral. But intuitively you know that you actually do. You Don’t need to do that. I have a right to say, no, I’m not doing that

Because here’s what you know, deep down inside. You know, that that guy has no actual authority. The authority is in the law and he is not allowed to exercise authority beyond the boundaries, by which the law, his authority is telling him he can act. He can’t do that. That’s actually unlawful for him to require that of you. Now let’s play out another scenario. Um, as the pastor of the church, the mayor calls us now, our mayor is a great guy. He would never do this, but he calls us. And he says, I require you to write a $10,000 check to begin a, to build a playground in the city. Okay? Well, the mayor has no authority to require village church. I L a nonprofit to write a check for any amount of money, let alone do a specific thing right now. Is it sin for us to write a $10,000 check to build a playground in the city?

No, no, it’s not, but would we disobey him? Yeah, we would. Right? Because we recognize he actually has no authority to ask us to do that. Now he has limited authority and will obey him when he acts within the limited authority that the law itself gives him. But if he goes beyond that, we intuitively know Romans 13 doesn’t apply because he is sinning by going beyond the bounds of his authority. Now, if we were to go back to Rome, if the emperor says that it’s law, right? He is the authority in America, the laws that they’re different systems. This is the human system as Paul calls or Peter calls it here. And in Rome, the human system was the emperor. They’re very Different.

Yeah. Well, you talk about Rome. And that was like really a long time ago and how they function, but really in modern day, this world, okay. America is a Republic and that’s not widespread. That’s not like other countries. That is how they do it. The person says jump. Everybody says how high.

Yep. And if I’m in that country, uh, Peter references it as a human institution, meaning the institution actually can look different from different country and empire, different country and empire, right? So you look at the human institution that you’re under, and that is the authority. And so if I’m in, um, China, they have a different institution. If I’m in North Korea, they have a different institution, Russia, Europe, et cetera, country, south America. I mean, but we do Hear different places coming down hard and they have to do They do. And if I’m a believer in a place where it is legal for them to actually mandate specific things and the thing isn’t sin, then I’m going to comply. But what’s interesting is right now, you and me, we’re in America. And I’m more responding to our people here in America. And we have a different form of government. And if a government authority goes beyond the bounds of what he is permitted to do, we’re not under Romans 13 in that moment. So if governor Pritzker, for example, in Illinois, he, uh, under our constitution, when there’s an emergency, he’s given 30 days of emergency power. And that is it. And so beyond that, right, he has no authority to exercise emergency powers. He just doesn’t, that’s not in his constitution,

But didn’t he try to like reinstate that and prolong that. Correct? But that there is no permission for him to do that in the constitution. So what he’s hoping is that as he does this, eventually, even though it’s technically unlawful that the Supreme court in Illinois will make it lawful. Right? So that’s sort of how you can do things. You push the boundaries, people object, legally, it goes to the courts. The courts make a decision. And the governor’s hoping that the courts are going to give him more power to extend an emergency situation. As long as he wants. Now, that’s a little bit technical there, but yeah, it’s a real circumstance right now. He does not technically have authority under the constitution. He might later. And that will change the discussion. Yeah. So you take, you take something like masks, right? Mass are a neutral thing, right? They’re not inherently sinful. They’re not inherently righteous. Right.

So if the government, if the governor has authority to tell us legally wear a mask woman, we wear a mask. But if he doesn’t, then I can say, I don’t need to. Now it might be the right thing to do it. That’s a different issue. So yeah. We’re not discussing that. Yes. We’re not, we’re not discussing, should I wear a mask? Yeah, we’re discussing must I wear a mask. They’re very different conversations. Right? And so some, some people will take the first interpretation here, which is the government says it, you gotta do it. Uh, no matter what it is and say, well, if you don’t know, bam, you’re, you’re breaking Romans 13. And I would say, no, there’s a second interpretation. And it goes like this respect is given to all governing authorities, period. Let it always be said of us that we’re respectful, but in America, our authority is documented law.

And at the end of the day, I want to make sure that I’m living under submission to that. And all of the people who are hired to execute and uphold that law, I want to make sure I am profoundly respectful of them. And so in this system of government, my authority is the law and the people, um, are who are governors or police officers, et cetera, our mayor, uh, they are hired to uphold and to implement the law. Do you see the difference? Whereas in Rome, the emperor is the law for us. He is the authority for us. The authority is actually our constitution. So that’s where it gets. It gets pretty different. And so I would tell people right now, um, the, the simple and nuanced, yeah. You know, just a bay because they said it well, okay. So right now it’s masks, then it’s vaccines. Then it’s what you’re teaching in schools. The list go, it just keeps, this is the nature. This is the nature of humanity. They’re groping for more and more power. And if the Lord allows that, then the Lord allows that. But we actually live in a Republic that was built with these values in it. One of the values is you have the freedom to say you don’t like it. Yeah. The freedom to protest, you have the freedom to rebel. Um, we were a nation or a nation, but we’re a nation built in off of rebellion. Yeah. Against the governing authorities.

Right. I think that is one of the quotes from one of the founding fathers, like Tom Starr. He’s like, it’s actually healthy to have a little bit of rebellion for any government.

Right. And we understand though, that that rebellion, isn’t just pure sin. It’s actually, uh, the whole system is built in such a way that it permits it and it permits it to a limit for sure. Right. Um, but it’s interesting. Even the second amendment, the right to bear arms is primarily to fight against the government who gets too much power. You know, so it’s a very interesting dynamic here. And so if you’re too simplistic and you take first century Roman political structures and apply principles in the same way you would to a Republic, uh, built and designed to prevent government overreach and to provide freedom of life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all of its people with the first and second amendment. Like they’re just so different, different structures and understanding that, you know, I’m not in Rome. And in fact, a good theology is nuanced.

Okay. Again, should I wear a mask? That is not the question we’re answering, you know, must I, now what’s the day-to-day I forget it’s August 15th, 15th, August 15th, 2021. So we know the law right now. We know that the Supreme court has not settled the issue. And if they settle the issue, I will change. And I would say, listen, it’s a new conversation. The law has been changed and we’ll have some new dialogues. Now, when we have that, there are other competing laws, conscience, laws, healthcare laws. I mean like, so in this system of government, it’s not as simple as, okay, now it’s a law. Now we have competing laws. Yeah. So which ones do I obey my conscience laws? Or do I pay the governor’s mandate? You know what I mean? This gets real. I’m not a lawyer.

That’s a good long future ahead.

Yes, it does. We have a lot, you know, and so w I want To make sure though that I, I don’t want to broach into the, the legal side of things. I’m not a lawyer. I talked to a lot of lawyers, but I’m not a lawyer. Yeah. What I want to make sure I’m doing is theologically and biblically interpreting Romans 13 and first Peter two in a way that is appropriate in the first century, but also applies it appropriately. In our context, we’re in two separate kinds of human institutions. And if we’re not thoughtful about this, we can blindly tell people up. They said it do it when you can’t apply that principle consistently. Yep. Yeah.

I think that provides a lot of clarity actually, for something that seems super complex. But I do also want to just remind everybody that’s watching and us really, we need to be praying for these people are our governing officials. They need wisdom. They have an incredible amount of pressure coming from the people, the culture, um, their own authorities of what they want them to do. And it’s not a fun spot to be in. And really you’re going to be in a, nobody’s going to be a hundred percent happy and we just need to be praying that they have wisdom. And that we could also just keep the forefront of the Republic at our forefront of our mind that we would uphold that Because we’re allowed to, we’re allowed to, because we’re allowed to, and we’re, we’re privileged to do that. Yeah. It is hard. Leadership is hard. Yeah. What decision you made
And you know, this many people are unhappy, but this way, you know, we pray for them And pray for our spiritual leaders or political leaders. Amen. Amen. Amen.

Thank you, pastor Michael, for diving into this stressful topic. Next time we are going to be talking about what does the Bible say about interracial marriage?

On This Episode:

Amanda Diaz

Co-Host, Q&A

Michael Fuelling
Michael Fuelling

Lead Pastor, Village Church Illinois

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