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When Should a Christian Disobey the Civil Government?

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When a civil government refuses people the liberty to worship and obey God freely, it has lost its mandate of authority from God. Then the Christian should feel justified in disobeying.

Thomas Jefferson believed in the right to revolt against tyranny. He believed that when a government began to be tyrannical, it was the right and even the duty of the citizens to rebel against that government. Our forefathers rebelled primarily because they were being unfairly taxed by a foreign parliament. They felt that taxation without representation was tyranny. The Christian is called to bear with his government wherever possible. Jesus did not call for revolution against Rome, even though it was an oppressive conqueror of Israel. On the other hand, the apostles refused to obey an order not to preach and teach in Jesus' name (see ). Whenever the civil government forbids the practice of things that God has commanded us to do, or tells us to do things He has commanded us not to do, then we are on solid ground in disobeying the government and rebelling against it.

Several years ago, a group of people was tested concerning how much authority they would accept without question. They were seated at a set of controls behind a glass, while on the other side of the glass a man was strapped to a machine which administered electrical shocks. A person in a white coat directed these citizens to inflict pain on the subject. They started moving the dials as the man strapped to the machine screamed in pain. The person in the white coat, who was the authority figure, kept telling the people to push the lever higher, and they continued to do so until the subject seemed to be either in a state of collapse or dead. Though the subject gave every evidence of being in excruciating pain, people obeyed orders to hurt him, simply because those orders came from an authority figure. Only a few people resisted orders to inflict pain. The rest of them did whatever they were told to do.

It is this kind of blind obedience to government that we all need to fight. However difficult or costly it may be, we all must reserve the right to say no to things that we consider oppressive or immoral.

Excerpt taken from Answers to 200 of Life's Most Probing Questions, Copyright 1984 by Pat Robertson. 

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About The Author

Pat Roberstson Headshot

Dr. Robertson served as the founder and chairman of The Christian Broadcasting Network, Inc. (CBN); co-founder, chancellor, and chief executive officer of Regent University; founder of Operation Blessing Relief and Development Corporation (OB); founder and president of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ); co-founder and chairman of International Family Entertainment, Inc.; and a leading force behind several other influential organizations and broadcast entities. His greatest treasure in life was knowing Jesus Christ and having the privilege of proclaiming Him and His power to others