Christians and the Law

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Should Christians
always obey the law? Under what conditions is it acceptable to disobey
the law? Didn’t Paul state that all Christians should submit themselves
to the authorities in power and that all governments have been established
by God?

I will address
the issues that Paul raises in Romans chapter 13 in a future essay.
For now, let’s address the issue of whether or not Christians should
always obey the law. The simple answer to that question is that
Christians should obey the law if, and only if, it does not contradict
the teachings of Christ. Once that condition is present, the Christian
has a moral obligation to do what is necessary to change the law
and to extricate himself from the implementation of the law. That
does not necessarily mean that a Christian should break whatever
law he deems to be in conflict with Christ’s teachings. Most laws
established by the State are not in direct opposition to Christ’s
teachings; however, many fall into a grey area in which the Christian
might find himself an accomplice to the enforcement of a law that
might be used to violate a teaching of Christ

For example,
suppose a Christian has a friend who is a marijuana user. While
this behavior may be self-destructive, the “crime” is largely one
in which no aggression has taken place against anyone else. In this
case, the Christian would be wise to provide support, prayer, and
love to the person in question. The “lawful” thing to do would be
for the Christian to report the incident to the police and have
the friend arrested for drug possession. In this case, the friend
(and probably his family) is likely to resent the Christian for
reporting the crime. No Christian love has been exhibited and nothing
has been accomplished except that a man engaging in a private matter
has now been removed from society to join others (many who have
committed actual crimes of violence against others) in incarceration.
Has God been glorified in these actions? No. The only results are
resentment, bitterness, and ruined lives.

Many sinful
practices have existed throughout history that were completely lawful
including slavery, torture, discrimination, polygamy, kidnapping,
rape, pillaging, and even murder. Obviously, a Christian should
condemn these actions and even forcefully oppose them when possible.
At the very least, a Christian should not assist in the application
of these types of laws and should seek to remove himself from any
position in which he contributes directly or indirectly to the enforcement
of such laws.

Christians
should focus on following the teachings of Christ, not following
the laws of the State. As Henry David Thoreau stated, “It is not
desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as (a respect)
for the right.” If the State passes a law that opposes a teaching
of Christ, the obligation of the Christian should be to disregard
that law. This requires courage in the face of adversity, but then
again, Christ did urge each of his followers to “take up his cross
daily.” No one ever said following Christ was easy. No Christian
should need the government to instruct him on what is right. As
that old Hebrew National commercial stated, Christians "answer
to a higher power."

March
8, 2006

Aaron
Ginn [send him mail] is
an electrical engineer from Chandler, Arizona.

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