There is a powerful and beautiful episode in the book of Acts. The city of Jerusalem was in an uproar because of the teaching of the apostles after the resurrection of Jesus. The religious leaders had already warned Peter and John to stop their teaching. Of course, they could not stop. They were under orders from their Lord! So they continued to teach.
And once again they were caught and brought before the religious leaders… where we read the following exchange.
"And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them, Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us. Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:27-29)
For true Christians, the simple and straightforward answer of the apostles has echoed down through the centuries, "We ought to obey God rather than men!" I am so glad God saw fit to include this episode in His Word! How encouraging these words are when people are telling us that we should not be teaching the truth… because it is "bothering" folks!
If we are true Christians, there will be times when God requires us to take a stand for truth even though that stand is not popular. We must obey God rather than men.
Now this is a stand that must not be taken lightly. God also teaches the importance of submission to those who have authority over us. It’s just that there are times when we cannot reasonably escape from human authorities who are requiring us to do something that God calls sin! And when those situations come up, we must obey God rather than men.
For example, if the federal government of a nation passes a law that requires its citizens to do something that God says is sin, its citizens must respectfully refuse to obey the law… even if it leads to unpleasant consequences for the Christian who refuses to obey.
However, sometimes there are other options. There may be an opportunity to make an appeal to the authority. That is certainly an option that should be taken advantage of, if it is available.
There may be other times when it is possible for one to remove oneself from the authority.
If, for example, one attends a school where Christian expression is not allowed, but there is the option of transferring to a school where it is allowed, the transfer might be a better option than staying at the first school and disobeying the rules.
If a husband is requiring a wife or children to do things that are sinful and harmful to them under threat of abuse or battering, it would be better to remove themselves from the authority than to stay and disobey the sinful instructions and receive the abuse.
The early pilgrims to America were doing their best to remove themselves from such an authority.
There were times when Jesus and the apostles simply left a city rather than stay and fight with the authorities.
In short, if you ever find yourself in a situation where those who are in authority over you (school, home, church, or government) are requiring you to do something contrary to God’s instructions… think carefully. Consider your options. Pray for wisdom. Get counsel from Godly people.
You might ask yourself these kinds of questions:
Is what I’m being asked to do really a sin? or is it just something I don’t prefer?
Is it possible for me to make a gracious appeal for this decision to be reconsidered? If so, how can I word the appeal respectfully and wisely?
Is it possible for me to remove myself from this particular authority? If so, would that be a better solution than to disobey an authority that has already rejected my appeal?
Sometimes these questions are not easy to answer. Situations and circumstances can become complex. But we must obey God! And if we are serious about our commitment to obey God, He will show us what to do. Remember, He has promised, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. (James 1:5)
Stay in the Battle!