To Obey Or Not Obey - That Is The Question
“And they began to accuse him, saying, ‘We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ, a king’” (Luke 23:2 ESV).
These perverse men thought Jesus forbad obedience to the government. If He forbids us to pay taxes, He must forbid us to obey anything that’s offensive to our liberty. They could not discern the difference between rendering to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and rendering to God what belongs to God. Tyranny belongs to Caesar and the Ten Commandments belong to God.
It is true that “Tyrants do not have a right to rule,” but God is the one that raises them up as a punishment for sin. The tyrant Nebuchadnezzar was called “Lucifer,” but God also called him, “My servant.” Tyrants may not have a right to rule, but neither do tyrants have a right to overthrow tyrants. And God has a right to put tyrants in power. The Jewish tyrants rebelled against Rome and God destroyed them. When Peter used the sword, Jesus said, “No more of this” (Luke 22:51 ESV).
The only way to overthrow tyrants is the way English Parliament did it in the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and the way American Colonies did it. In both cases the lesser magistrate did it. The lesser magistrate has both a right and a duty to obey God rather than man. The lesser magistrate has a right to raise an army and resist tyranny because the sole duty of law is to protect the public from plunder.
When Daniel purposed in his heart to not defile himself with the king’s food, did he demand his rights or did he humbly request permission? The Bible says, “he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself” (Dan 1:8). When the time came to rebuild the temple, did the Jews demand their rights or did they submit to the king? When Nehemiah wanted to rebuild Jerusalem, did he demand his right or did he ask permission? He first prayed that God would cause the king to give him permission. Then he said, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, I ask that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ tombs, that I may rebuild it” (Neh 1:5).
The only time for individuals to disobey Caesar is when Caesar commands us to sin. Rebellious hearts cannot discern the difference between submitting to being slapped and submitting to sin. If Caesar slaps us, we are to turn the cheek just like Jesus did. If Caesar commands us to carry 100 pounds for a mile, we are to go the second mile. That is not a sin. It is obedience to the law of Christ. But rebels cannot draw the analogy. Their rebellious hearts will not allow it.
When the government commanded the three Hebrew children to bow it was time to disobey because it is sin to bow to an idol. When the government commanded Daniel to not pray, it was time to disobey because it is a sin not to pray and it is a sin to hide our light under a bushel. When the rulers commanded the apostles not to preach in Jesus’ name, they obeyed God rather than man. To flee persecution is not the same as sassing cops and wrestling with them. If the cop is breaking the law, do what Paul did. Appeal to the magistrate, not to the cop (Acts 16:36-37). Rebels cannot discern between good and evil. “But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Heb 5:14).