Bible Q&A: Two-For-One About Christians Submitting to Government

Although Jesus was perfect, did he violate any laws of the land in a way similar to Daniel? If so, does this allow for a peaceful resistance for Christians?

If the government asks churches to not assemble in church buildings, is Acts 5:29 a passage churches should apply?

I’m combining these two questions since they are very similar.  In answering them, let’s first examine Daniel’s situation.  The law of the land which Daniel violated was an edict which required idolatry (Dan. 6:1-10).  As far as the biblical record goes, neither the Jewish nor the Roman government of Jesus’ day made a law requiring him to commit idolatry.  So he did not violate the laws of the land in a way similar to Daniel.  He did go against the traditions of the scribes and Pharisees that were in a sense theocratic law (cf. Matt. 12:1-2), and they charged him with sedition against Caesar which Pilate found him not guilty of committing but sentenced him to death anyway out of political pressure.

Christians are divinely obligated to obey the laws of the land (Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Pet. 2:11-17; Tit. 3:1-8), even evil, hostile, pagan governments such as the ones under which Paul and Peter lived when they were inspired to write these edicts.  A careful examination of each of these passages reveals that God not only requires submissive obedience to governing authorities, but also requires Christians to give governing authorities respect and honor in order to stand out from the rest of this sin-filled world and influence the lost around them to obey the gospel.  This is a divine command which many American Christians have forgotten, having been used to not only giving their opinions about government but in many cases also feeling the supposed need to consistently insult and disparage governing authorities due to constitutional freedom of speech and expression.  The only exception is if governing authorities specifically demand that a Christian do something outside of the laws of God (Acts 5:27-29).  Notice also how Daniel reacted to the order which required him to sin against God (Dan. 6:10, 21).  Daniel reacted with PEACEFUL resistance.  He didn’t shout his outrage on social media.  He didn’t overreact.  He didn’t even insult the king, choosing instead to address him with the reverent form of address common for that time period (“O king, live forever!”); he did this even though the king had thrown him into a den of lions.  Daniel simply did what God wanted him to do in a quiet, peaceful fashion.  This is a lesson Christians must learn (1 Pet. 2:11-17; Tit. 3:1-8; Rom. 13:1-7).

Concerning our federal, state, and local governments, as far as I am aware they have yet to actually permanently require by law anything of a Christian that would directly go against what God has told the Christian to do.  Concerning the past responses to COVID-19, some governments were not asking Christians not to assemble because they were demanding that we permanently no longer worship God or practice the Christian faith.  Rather, they were asking Christians not to assemble for a temporary time out of care for their neighbors and communities, in an effort to slow the spread of the pandemic.  This is in keeping with many biblical principles (cf. Gal. 6:10; Matt. 25:31-46; etc.).  It also in no way violates the edict of Hebrews 10:25, which is actually condemning the total abandonment of assembling together as manifested by customary, habitual missing of worship services.  Thus, Christians should obey the laws of the land.

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