Acts 5:29 Peter and the other apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than men!”
This is a magnificent statement of faith, but it has also been abused by people who haven’t wanted to submit to authority, period. The apostles here were in pretty safe territory, but personality differences in an organization, such as a church or ministry, are much less cut and dried. When the “men” in question are entirely secular and obviously not submitted to God, the choice of “civil disobedience” is a clear one. However, when both sides are Christian, sensitivity to the Holy Spirit is demanded. Even Martin Luther agonized over his various decisions, finally declaring, when put on Church trial, “Here I stand. I can do no other.” Most of us aren’t faced with such dramatic choices, but many are, even in America today. Those promoting abortion and immorality have a sadly outsized voice in society, and there have been high profile cases of people paying a high price for obedience to Biblical principles. Cases like that might seem obvious to genuine believers, but there are many more, far more subtle pressures to follow something other than the Lord. “Peer pressure” is notorious, and rightly so. However, “everybody’s doing it” has never been an excuse that would stand up before God. In Japan, society practically demands that we go with the group, and individuality can be punished in many different ways. For a disciple of Jesus Christ, the choices may not be easy, but they are always ultimately rewarded, however painful the immediate consequences might be.
I was raised very much as an individual, and responsibility for all my choices rests squarely with me. I have never been in an active situation of civil disobedience, but I was in college during the Civil Rights era, and I thought about it. When the church where I was pastor asked me to resign from the ministerial association because it was interracial, I resigned from the church instead. That wasn’t an easy decision, but I’ve never regretted it, and the Lord taught us a great deal in the aftermath. I have never been particularly comfortable with the authority the Lord has given me, in this church and actually in this city, and I am still growing in that area. I’ve had to choose to obey what God was showing me, rather than do what some people in the church wanted me to do, and that has caused turmoil. I am to stay in as close fellowship with my Lord as possible so that I may know His will and obey it, not putting other people down but always speaking the truth in love, even when that love requires discipline. I am far from perfect, so my focus must be on the only One who is.
Father, thank You for this reminder. We leave for the US this morning, and we are leaving behind various situations that are far from settled. Help us release each one to You and walk in peace, submitting to You in our emotions as well as in other areas, so that You may be free to do all that You desire in and through us, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!