It is sad to see and hear what people are doing to our nation’s communities and are saying about what is currently going on in our wonderful, beautiful country. We probably all have a hard time escaping the confusing and many times evil rhetoric in the news, on the radio, and in all the social media platforms we use. My heart breaks at every horrible statement and act I see, hear or read about. I’m angered by it all. I know some may even say it is wrong for a pastor to be angry, but so is lying…I am angry! Last I looked, it is against the law to burn down a building, throw rocks at someone with intent to harm, steal from a store, resist arrest, destroy property that doesn’t belong to you, and the list could go on. I am a citizen of the United States and I have worked hard at being a good, law-abiding citizen. It’s the right thing to do…period! My observation is that most U.S. citizens are the same…great, law-abiding citizens. To those who willfully violate the laws of our country and promote law-breaking in any shape or form need to understand that this is NOT what our God calls us to do…no matter what the narrative of the “mob” is promoting.
So, what does God have to say about such irresponsible rhetoric and acts of lawlessness? I reach back to stories in the Old Testament about how God dealt with disobedience and quickly you can see he looks upon disobedience as being both heart-breaking and punishable. One only has to read stories of the flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, the exodus, the judges, King David and Bathsheba, the kings of Israel and Judah, the exile, etc. The New Testament is no different.
In the New Testament, God gives us words that confirm an even broader guidance of how we are to live in submission to our governments and laws. Paul writes in Romans 13:1-5 (using The Message version of the Bible…God’s words not mine); “Be a good citizen. All governments are under God. Insofar as there is peace and order, it’s God’s order. So live responsibly as a citizen. If you’re irresponsible to the state, then you’re irresponsible with God, and God will hold you responsible. Duly constituted authorities are only a threat if you’re trying to get by with something. Decent citizens should have nothing to fear. Do you want to be on good terms with the government? Be a responsible citizen and you’ll get on just fine, the government working to your advantage. But if you’re breaking the rules right and left, watch out. The police aren’t there just to be admired in their uniforms. God also has an interest in keeping order, and he uses them to do it. That’s why you must live responsibly—not just to avoid punishment but also because it’s the right way to live.” So, as you can see, God does not change on his call for his people to be obedient citizens. This does not in any way say it is wrong to express your desire for things to change within the law or governing body. If you read the excerpt again, you’ll see God says, “Do you want to be on good terms with the government? Be a responsible citizen and you’ll get on just fine, the government working to your advantage.” Our constitution supports peaceful protests as a way to express your desire for change. However, it draws the line with violence as not an acceptable way to express your desire for change. Change can and will happen, but only with peaceful dialogue and honest, citizen teamwork with governmental leaders, NOT VIOLENCE.
Paul reminds us what can happen if we take the violent route (stated in the verses above), “If you’re irresponsible to the state, then you’re irresponsible with God, and God will hold you responsible.” And, “But if you’re breaking the rules right and left, watch out. The police aren’t there just to be admired in their uniforms. God also has an interest in keeping order, and he uses them to do it.”
So, my pastoral warning to everyone is this: God does not change…he has given us the command to “Be a good citizen.” While we all know that 1 John 4:8 reveals that “God is love.” Let’s not forget that God will as Paul said, “hold us responsible.” But most of all, we must remember that violent disobedience brings upon our own heads just punishment. I say this because, as Paul also wrote in Ephesians 5:6b (ESV), “the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.” My advice then is to quit the violence in actions and in speech. Instead, live as God has called you to live…by striking up peaceful, meaningful dialogue. It’s the right thing to do.
Love and concern to you all! Dave