Whereas my last post dealt with the issue of whether or not the Scriptures advocate pacifism, this post will raise the question of civil disobedience. The Scriptures deny that one can love his neighbor and yet do him harm (either by omission or commission), but what implications does this have for the Christian as he stands in relation to the political structure under which he exists?
In other words, is my duty to love my neighbor only applicable in individual and non-governmental contexts, or does it apply in every social context?
Consider the following passage from Matthew 15:1-6:
Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God commanded,‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God.
The Law in this context derives from the second table, and the Pharisees have added laws which, when fully fleshed out, contradict the clear teaching of the Law of God. Thus, Christ does not hold His disciples accountable as law-breakers for breaking the unjust and ungodly contradictory commandments of the religious authorities of His day. Instead, He rebukes the Pharisees and scribes for adding to the Law of God in order to nullify the Word of God.
Admittedly, the context is not political. However, the text is applicable in that it addresses the Law of God inscribed on the hearts of all men, which, moreover, applies directly to person to person relationships (in this case, parents and children). Consequently, pharisaic stipulations which contradict and nullify the individual’s duty to love his parents by honoring them are to be opposed. In other words, Christ is allowing for the civil breaking of unjust and ungodly laws which contradict and nullify His own divine Law.
Thus, the text is applicable to political contexts, it would seem, insofar as the Christian’s duty to love God with all his heart, and to love his neighbor as himself, is hindered by the legislation of unjust and ungodly laws.
What do you say?