When It’s Time to Preach Disobedience to the State

When It’s Time To  Preach Disobedience Against the State

In the past few blogs we have looked at preaching and the politics of Jesus, preaching and the politics of Peter, and preaching and the politics of Paul.  Today we are going to look at when it’s time to preach disobedience to the state in your church.

Preaching on Politics

In the last posts we learned that Jesus, Peter and Paul all viewed the political world as created by God for the care  of people.  However, they saw politics as far less important than the preaching of the gospel, the good news about Jesus Christ.  Rather, we are to submit to rulers and to pray for them.

Preaching Disobedience

There are times, however, when it is time to preach disobedience against the state that we live under.  What are those times?

Preaching Disobedience When Caesar Wants What Is God’s

Jesus once spoke about the relationship of his followers to the state during an encounter with the Pharisees, as recorded in Matthew 22:

15 Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. 16 They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians.“Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are. 17 Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax[a] to Caesar or not?”

18 But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19 Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, 20 and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”

21 “Caesar’s,” they replied.

Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

The General principle is that we should give to God what is God’s.  However, there are times that some governments will demand what belongs to God.  This is what led to much of the persecution of the early church.  You see, Caesar began to demand that everyone in the Roman Empire acknowledge him as a god and worship him.  This was repugnant, both to Jews and to Christians, and led to the death of many.  When political leaders demand to be our god, it’s time to preach disobedience to the state in our sermons.

When The State Requires Us To Disobey God

In an earlier post in this series I’ve referenced Peter’s statement to the Sanhedrin when they commanded him and John to no longer preach in the name of Jesus, as recorded in Acts 4:

18 Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him?You be the judges! 20 As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”

Chinese Christian Arrested

Many years ago I had the privilege of being one of the delegates from the US to the Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization in Manila, the Philippines.  Those days were exciting, as people from all over the world gathered to consider how best to saturate the world with the Good News of Jesus.

I remember many powerful speakers, but perhaps the most impactful was a man who had spent many years in a “correction camp” in China.  He was a pastor of a church, and was caught preaching about Jesus.  That was a crime, and he did prison time as a result.  He told how he kept the faith.  He volunteered for the worst job the camp: cleaning out the waste from the latrine pits.  It was so foul and smelly, he said, that no guards would come around.  So, he would worship God the whole time, singing each day, “I come to the Garden Alone.”

He paid the price, but he didn’t disobey God.

When the state requires us to disobey God, it’s time to preach disobedience to the state in our churches.

When Justice Demands It

The Old Testament prophet Amos saw the country drifting away from justice.  Inspired by the Spirit, he called people back with these words from chapter 5:24:

     But let justice roll on like a river,
    righteousness like a never-failing stream!

In my country, the United States, the Civil Rights Movement began when a woman named Rosa Parks decided to disobey the law.  The law required her to take a seat in the back of the bus, because she was black.  One day, she refused.  Her refusal inspired many others to practice civil disobedience as a means to gain justice.  Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. preached powerfully as a leader in that movement.

Martin Luther King Jr

When there is injustice in our society, it’s time to preach disobedience to the state in our sermons.  When the poor are mistreated and kept down, when the rich get court decisions and the poor go to jail, when the leadership in the mistreats the poor, it’s time….

Here is Francis Schaefer, a practical theologian from a previous generation, talking about this subject.