Henry David Thoreau was a huge proponent of civil disobedience. He was a firm believer in living a simple life and exploring nature. One of my favorite quotes came from Henry and reads: "Most men live in quiet desperation and go to their graves with the song still in them." Chew on that for a bit, even till your mouth is sore.
The duty of governments is to keep its people safe. Do you feel any safer than you did two years ago? If not, why not? I suggest that the more governments hide behind the facade of lies and the more they place burdens on the populace, the farther they are from ensuring its people are safer. Instead, more government means a loss of more freedoms.
When governments fail at their basic task of protecting their citizens, civil disobedience is one's duty, not a choice. But you say, "Mariel, governments are placed by God! And aren't you a Christian?" Yes, I am. But we must obey God rather than man.
The Apostle Paul wrote the book of Roman in approximately A.D. 57-58. In chapter 13, his long discourse on obedience to one's government is well noted. Paul wrote in part:
"Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience" (Romans 13:1-5).
Taken in its proper context, obedience does not mean one should be in total submission to any government. If this were true, and we were totally submissive to our governments, EDSA would have been sinful when Ferdinand Marcos was overthrown, and Jose Rizal would have been sinful with his publication of Noli Me Tangere. Additionally, the American Revolution or the French Revolution would have been sinful as well.
The very same Paul was preaching Christ crucified, buried and risen from the dead to the Jews in Philippi. A woman possessed by a demon followed Paul and Silas, shouting they were preaching what one must do to be saved. Tired of the demon, Paul eventually cast it out of the woman and angered the owners who profited from her. We pick up the narrative:
"When her owners realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice”(Acts 16:19-21, NIV).
By Roman law at the time, nobody was allowed to convert a Roman citizen to Christianity. But Paul disobeyed, though in a non-violent way.
We continue reading: "The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks" (Acts 16:22-24, NIV).
You and me likely would have been angry and called our parents or friends, maybe even a bail bondman. But look at how Paul and Silas responded!
"About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”(Acts 25:28, NIV).
"The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:29-30, NIV).
The jailer woke up in more ways than one! He wanted to be saved! Do you see how God was working when these men were being persecuted by the government?
They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household" Acts 16:31-34, NIV).
You and your family does not mean a family plan of salvation. Rather, all heard the message of Paul and believed in their own right. When the head of a household makes a decision, the family typically goes along with it. Is this true in your family?
Now here comes the good part of the story!
"When it was daylight, the magistrates sent their officers to the jailer with the order: “Release those men.”The jailer told Paul, “The magistrates have ordered that you and Silas be released. Now you can leave. Go in peace” (Acts 16:35-36, NIV).
You see, Paul knew he was in the right to obey God and not man or governments.
"But Paul said to the officers: “They beat us publicly without a trial, even though we are Roman citizens, and threw us into prison. And now do they want to get rid of us quietly? No! Let them come themselves and escort us out” (Acts 16:37, NIV).
You can bet all were scared on the side of the government, because they had willfully been obedient to their interpretation of the law rather than the law itself.
"The officers reported this to the magistrates, and when they heard that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, they were alarmed. They came to appease them and escorted them from the prison, requesting them to leave the city. (Acts 16, 38-39, NIV).
In the end, Paul and Silas didn't heed the request nor did they leave Philippi right away, but instead they hung out with Lydia and some other women for three days and chilled in fellowship. We also need to know when civil disobedience is a duty rather than a choice.