Following up on my first post about obeying laws we don't like, John MacArthur has a two part teaching on "Submission to Civil Authority" (and part 2). MacArthur is possibly the foremost New Testament scholar of our time, and I think his positions on this issue are spot-on. He talks about all the whys and wherefores, but I'll quote the part that is probably most difficult for modern Americans to accept: submission to unjust governments.
A.To Unjust Authorities
Believers are to submit to "every" governing authority, even unjust ones. God's Word specifies that there are unjust rulers.
1.Isaiah 3:1-2, 8--"The Lord God of hosts is going to remove from Jerusalem and Judah both supply and support, the whole supply of bread, and the whole supply of water; the mighty man and the warrior, the judge and the prophet, the diviner and the elder.... For Jerusalem has stumbled, and Judah has fallen, because their speech and their actions are against the Lord, to rebel against His glorious presence." God judged the nation because its rulers were evil.
2.Daniel 9:11-12--"All Israel has transgressed Thy law and turned aside, not obeying Thy voice; so the curse has been poured out on us, along with the oath which is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, for we have sinned against Him. Thus He has confirmed His words which He had spoken against us and against our rulers who ruled us, to bring on us great calamity; for under the whole heaven there has not been done anything like what was done to Jerusalem." The Hebrew phrase translated "rulers who ruled us" literally means "judges who judged us." Because the rulers were evil, God judged them.
3.Micah 7:2-3--"The godly person has perished from the land, and there is no upright person among men. All of them lie in wait for bloodshed; each of them hunts the other with a net. Concerning evil, both hands do it well. The prince asks, also the judge, for a bribe." Micah lived in an evil society that included corrupt judges, so he pleaded for God to execute justice (v. 9).
4.Romans 13:1--"Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities." In Paul's day corrupt judges presided over the trials of persecuted believers.
Although many rulers were unjust in those days, God's people were not to take matters into their own hands. Instead they were to trust God, who has the sovereign right to rule as He pleases. Robert Culver wrote, "Churchmen whose Christian activism has taken mainly to placarding, marching, protesting, and shouting might well observe [Paul] first at prayer, then in counsel with his friends, and after that preaching in the homes and market places. When Paul came to be heard by the mighty, it was to defend his action as a preacher ... of a way to heaven (see Ac 26:1-32; Ro 1:9-10)" (Toward a Biblical View of Civil Government [Chicago: Moody, 1974], p. 262). If believers are persecuted or imprisoned, it should be for preaching righteousness, not defying civil law.
There's a lot more, and MacArthur discusses what submission means, how we do it, and why we do it, so if you're curious I suggest you read the rest of his lesson before jumping all over me.
Which raises some interesting questions, such as, what about the American Revolution? In Why Government Can't Save You, MacArthur writes:
Over the past several centuries, people have mistakenly linked democracy and political freedom to Christianity. That's why many contemporary evangelicals believe the American Revolution was completely justified, both politically and scripturally. They follow the argumentation of the Declaration of Independence, which declares that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are divinely endowed rights. Therefore those believers say such rights are part of a Christian worldview, worth attaining and defending at all costs, including military insurrection at times. But such a position is contrary to the clear teachings and commands of Romans 13:1-7. So the United States was actually born out of a violation of New Testament principles, and any blessings that God has bestowed on America have come in spite of that disobedience by the Founding Fathers.
Possibly so. I'd have to give the matter more thought than I can devote now, but MacArthur's position is certainly worth contemplation.