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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Response to Unrighteous Authority

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,
that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,
that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.
~ Declaration of Independence

For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil... But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.
~ Romans 13:3-4 (NKJV)

Peter and the other apostles replied: "We must obey God rather than men!"
~ Acts 5:29 (NIV)

"The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works ... For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men's shoulders ..."
~ Matthew 23:2-4 (NKJV)

With the authority entrusted to rulers comes the power to execute authority, and the responsibility to use that power righteously. Failure to do so inevitably leads to an authority's demise. (Biblical examples abound.)

The founding fathers of the United States unequivocally affirmed in the Declaration of Independence their belief that Great Britain's "absolute Tyranny" compelled a "duty to throw off such government." But they first stated their belief "that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes."

Defiance of authority comes with a cost, and perhaps a penalty. We are wise if when we consider defiance we consider its penalty. Departure is another option, whether departure from a spouse, a local church, an employer—or even government, if one is willing to go into exile. If we prefer departure to defiance, we do well to evaluate not only the cost of broken relationship, but also if the alternative relationship (or lack thereof) really offers greater advantage than escaping whatever we suffer in the present relationship.

When does an authority's abuse of power rise to a level which warrants defiance?

Years ago, before he was my pastor, I heard Dean Stewart teach: "Civil disobedience is justified when government commands what God forbids, or forbids what God commands." He spoke of government authority. I would apply the principle to any authority.

I've observed Christians challenge authority for trivial matters, whether a wife resisting husband, citizen defying civil ordinance, or Church member scoffing at the leadership ordained to shepherd Christ's flock. (Anyone who belongs to Christ is a member of His Church.) Submission can be inconvenient, annoying, and costly. But the Bible says submit to authority, without qualifying "if it suits you to do so."

The other extreme is the belief that you submit to authority at any price. I've known of women taught to allow a husband's abuse in the name of submission. I've observed church elders (none of my present ones) lay heavy burdens upon others which simply could not be borne. We are all witnesses to a government which projects itself as god of provision, protection, and programmed thought—to the point of oppressing the unalienable rights upon which our nation was built.

When does oppression justify opposition? When should a Christian defy authority?

My answer is, "When authority commands what God forbids, or forbids what God commands."

But there is also a trump card to be played. Come back tomorrow.

Lord Jesus, my heart is heavy to think of all the abuse of authority I've witnessed. You've seen infinitely more, and have borne far more grief for it—borne it all the way to the cross. Please enlighten us in how to defend the oppressed, as well as how to uphold authority, and thus honor You.

Contrasting points-of-view, questions and feedback are invited. Post to "Comments" or e-mail to Copyright 2009, Anne Lang Bundy, all rights reserved.


  1. Yes, may we honor Him in all we do.

  2. Anne, You have a strong voice in this area. You're background gives you a solid platform.

    Now, I have to exercise patience by waiting until tomorrow for the "trump card".

    Oh how the Church, needs to pray for our leaders, our government oppressing the very idea of a Creator and, "that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness."

    pray Church, pray.

    You are doing an excellent work here, thank you.

    I'm going to plug this on facebook.

  3. I think enlightenment is a fitting thing to pray for. Dealing with this very issue on something and that would be excellent to receive. Anne, your wisdom astounds me sometimes.
    ~ Wendy

  4. This discussion could go in so many different directions.

    I can only speak from my own experiences.

    What does it mean to be an 'American?' By that I mean U.S. citizen. For a lot of people America, the flag, and the Founding Fathers are an idol. Their identities, personal and spiritual are enmeshed with their identities as 'Americans.' They can only conceive Jesus rapped in an American flag.

    Where am I going with this...

    When we politicize our faith we run a high risk of using our LORDS name for our own purposes.

    The Apostles and the early Church stood up to authority, but only to 'proclaim the Gospel,' not to fight for our against gun control, higher or lower taxes, universal health coverage or socialized medicine.

    Jesus taught that we love our enemies . . . do we? Jesus said that we leave wrath to God . . . do we? The Bible teaches that we do not use the LORDS name in vain . . . when it comes to politics, do we?

    Blessings to you Anne :-)

  5. Denise, I KNOW you put HIM first!

    Doug, thank you for the affirmation of my background to speak to a charged subject. Yes, we need to pray for ALL in authority. If we disagree with them, we need to pray more.

    Wendy, any wisdom I've got came the hard way, by some pretty rough experience. Praise the Lord if I can now use it for His glory.

    Shark Bait, have I told you lately you're my Favorite Fish? Be careful about that baited breath, or you really will be shark bait.

    Russell, I agree that when ANYone (me included) claims to be at work on the Lord's behalf, they run the risk of using His name in vain. For His name's sake, I aim to do whatever I do with excellence, whether hosting a blog discussion or mopping the church floor. When it's appropriate to inject the Lord, I don't hesitate to do so—to the extent of my audience's ability to understand. In politics, bringing too much Bible to a non-Bible audience will usually be less effective than simply injecting biblical principles based on their inherent wisdom. However, I think in times of crisis (such as President Bush for 9/11), it's most appropriate for our leaders to overtly bring God into the picture. Using Him as an excuse to further personal agenda is DEFINITELY taking His name in vain.

    I did a post which covered in some depth both government and the Lord's name: FEAR. It may be of interest.

    And now, my apologies for being mostly absent for the discussion while I go throw a few things in a suitcase and head to the airport. I'll be in touch with this as I'm able from the ACFW writer's (writers' ?) conference in Denver.


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