AC 5:29, 42 Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than men!” Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.
This is the moral and theological foundation for what in recent years has been called “civil disobedience.” In Romans 13:1-5 Paul expressed clearly the general rule for living in society, which is to be an exemplary, law-abiding citizen. However, when the government comes out in direct opposition to God, then God must always take priority. This is happening today in the US, with the government mandating that all employers must pay for abortifacients, and the government is being sued over the issue. Legal channels are still being used, but whatever the outcome in the courts, the government isn’t going to win this one. It will be interesting to see how it plays out. We have the record of how it played out in 1st century Jerusalem: God won! Almost every time governments have tried to get believers to abandon their faith, it has resulted in a massive increase in the number of believers! If the current US administration, by hook or by crook, manages to stay in power past the coming election, then it will be clear that God is allowing persecution in order to purify the Church and prepare for Christ’s return. However, such large-scale events aren’t the whole picture. Every believer faces times of choosing whether to go with the crowd or be obedient to God. Sadly, too many people take what they think is the easy way out, and go with the crowd. Sometimes it takes quite a while, but they eventually see how wrong they were. Sometimes there are genuine questions as to what God wants, but those are much fewer than rebellious people like to pretend. Even there, if the commitment to obedience is there, God will always make His will clear. “Jesus is Lord” is an absolute statement.
I minister in the one nation in which historic persecution was largely “successful,” driving the Church out of society to a degree that has been seen nowhere else. There has been great and long debate as to why that is so, because even today Japanese seem more resistant to the Gospel than any comparable people group. Other than specific issues of spiritual warfare, the first thing that stands out to me is Japan’s long history of enshrining loyalty as the supreme virtue. That was how they managed to do all they did in the 20th Century, both good and bad. The problem with that is that people see becoming Christian as being disloyal to their ancestors who were not Christian, and we have had people tell us explicitly that they choose hell over being disloyal. The second issue is how private they are, not wanting to invade someone’s “personal space.” That is a major hindrance to evangelism, because it takes enormous conviction and strength of will for Japanese believers to be active in personal evangelism. In written prayer requests this past Sunday, one believer wrote that we need to pray that believers would “break their silence” about Christ. I certainly agree with that!
Father, I am also faced with the question of how well I obey You, rather than the many other voices that speak to me. Help me lead the believers by example in being committed to obedience on every level, not making You speak twice but obeying immediately. May we miss none of the appointments You have for us, so that people may be brought into Your kingdom for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!