We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum. A.W. Tozer
Therefore let God-inspired Scripture decide between us; and on whichever side be found doctrines in harmony with the word of God, in favor of that side will be cast the vote of truth. --Basil of Caesarea
Once you learn to discern, there's no going back. You will begin to spot the lie everywhere it appears.

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service. 1 Timothy 1:12

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

A Christian’s Duty in Regard to the Law

While it appears that most people reading my post about Kim Davis understood my point, others (either in the comments, in e-mail, or on other blogs) seemed to have totally misunderstood me and feel I am against her stance — and I’m really 100% for her.   I think perhaps I confused the issue when I was trying to show different stances to take and the proper actions to take based on those stances — sort of muddied the water a bit.  So I want to revisit the issue by explaining what a Christian’s duty is if the law of the land (or any order from any authority) contradicts with the law of God.

First, let’s look at the appropriate passages which speak to the Christian’s responsibility to those in charge.

Romans 13:1-5Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended.  For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.

1 Peter 2:13-15Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.  For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people.

And one very important passage is Acts 5:29:  We must obey God rather than men.

In any occupation or other situation, we are to obey the rules, laws, orders, etc, of those in authority over us unless such requirements contradict God’s laws.  Period.  No picking and choosing what we want to obey, rather as long as we are under said authority we obey said authority.  Now, this does NOT preclude us from taking actions to remove ourselves from said authority so as to no longer be required to obey said authority, and if this “out” is all that is available to avoid being forced to act against God’s law, then a Christian must take it.

So what happens if a Christian is in a position from which they cannot get out from under the authority which is compelling them to act against God?  The only recourse is to refuse to obey, as did Daniel in the Old Testament and Paul in the New Testament.  Of course at that point the Christian must be prepared to deal with the earthly consequences of such disobedience, whether it be fines, prison, or execution.  

Back to Kim Davis.  And let it be known loud and clear that I am firmly behind her actions as they are playing out.  However, from all the original media reports I saw, including various videos of her speaking, although she didn’t cite the above passages it appeared they were her appeal as to why she was refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses.  She had requested accommodation and was refused by her authorities (although I think her request about removing her name really didn’t solve the issue of her responsibility for them with or without her name, but that’s another issue).  So in regard to this specific claim, and without mention of any other option, Davis really had only one recourse and that would be to resign and remove herself from under the authority which was compelling her to go against God’s law.   Again, this is IF she has no other recourse to address the same issue.  And because this was the only defense cited in the various media sources I saw, I noted that she was wrong in not resigning if this was her only defense.

The problem here is that too many people think resigning would have been demonstrating selfishness, cowardice, etc, and even that it would prevent her from making a clear public declaration of rebellion against unjust laws.  BUT, our stand for God is to glorify God and to not bring glory to ourselves for our martyrdom.

Let me give an example of the idea of removing oneself from the authority forcing compliance with man’s laws against God’s laws.  A few years back there were people (I think they were students) on the sidewalks of a public school during the Christmas season, and they were passing out candy canes with gospel tracts based on the purported Christian story behind the candy canes.  Well, local ordinances stated that nothing of this type of activity could be done on the school property, so the school authorities asked them to leave the grounds.  The individuals refused, saying that they were obeying God’s laws to preach the Gospel, and therefore were not compelled to obey man’s laws.  The police were called and the people were forced to leave under threat of arrest for trespass, and they made all sorts of protests and claims of persecution, etc.  Were they properly applying Acts 5:29?  Absolutely NOT!  All they had to do was to cross the street and continue their tracting, since, according to the article, school students used those sidewalks to go to and from the school grounds and were easily accessible to the tracters.  All these people had to do was remove themselves from the authority who had control of the school property.  There was no law from God which said they had to stay where they were!

Now while it is quite often that a Christian has no other defense than to either get out from under the authority or suffer consequences of righteous disobedience, there are times when there are other options available to properly reject the authority because the authority is actually the one acting out of their legal jurisdiction, and the person being compelled to act against God’s law is actually doing the legal thing by refusing to obey the illegitimate authority.  I have personally in the past been in such a situation and was able to appeal to a higher authority which countermanded the illegitimate authority (even the military allows subordinates to disobey those in authority if those in authority give unlawful orders).  Christians are indeed permitted to appeal to the laws of the land in their defense, and a perfect example from Scripture is how Paul was able to appeal to his rights as a Roman citizen for proper legal treatment.

So let’s look at Kim Davis’ situation.  Kim took an oath to uphold the laws of Kentucky, which would necessarily include their Constitution, which plainly states that marriage is only valid between a man and a woman.  As long as the laws she took an oath to uphold are on the books, she is bound by her oath to uphold them, and she can certainly appeal to her faith that it would be dishonoring to God if she failed to stand by her oath.  Since judicial opinions and decisions in regards to laws don’t actually change the laws, Davis would not be bound by such decisions, rather she would have to wait until the legislature actually changed the laws.  Otherwise she would be violating her oath of duty to the law.  So she would be righteously disobeying the judges and the governor who ordered her to issue the licenses.  Because she had this other option she did not need to resign in order to solve the situation with proper legal authority.

This was the point of my original article; that if she was standing only on Rom. 13 and 1 Pet 2, then her only recourse would be to resign.  BUT, since she had another option to honor God by honoring her oath to legitimate authority, to the legal protection she had, then this gave her another recourse for righteous refusal, and was the course that should have been taken if she wanted to refuse to resign.

Now, I have to admit that the media may have not properly reported the chain of events in regards to Kim’s decisions in what to claim as reasons, and it’s also possible she made statements regarding such decisions without thinking about what they actually entailed in regards to Rom. 13/1 Per 2.  With further progress of the story, it seems that the defense is being made that the laws did not change and therefore she was duty-bound to her oath of office.  I’m really happy to see this is the defense.

However, Christians need to understand that she was never persecuted for her faith (at least not yet).  We need to not claim martyrdom just because faith is involved in our everyday decisions.  This is the wrong sort of publicity for our cause unless it is 100% factual.  The stand being taken demonstrating judicial tyranny to the whole nation is what is good for all Americans and not just those who are Christian.

I do have one final thought where Davis, in my opinion, acted wrongly if she is going by her oath of office.  She refused to issue ANY marriage licenses so as to not be accused of discrimination.    However, since the law recognizes real marriage, she should have continued to issue those licenses all the while refusing same-sex licenses based not on her claims of what God does or does not allow, but on what the law she took an oath to uphold allowed!

I hope this clarifies things a bit.

UPDATE 1:50 PM.  According to the latest news, Kim Davis is NOT appealing to her oath to uphold the law, rather she is still appealing to the fact that she considers same-sex marriage to be a sin.  "Davis, an apostolic Christian, says gay marriage is a sin. She also says it would be a sin for her to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple because the licenses are issued under her authority."  Since she is not appealing to the legal option available as noted above, then she has only ONE legitimate response and that is to resign.  Her refusal to do so is wrong!

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