||2018-03-13 18:46:06, 조회 : 333, 추천 : 57
What is the Relationship between Church and State?
Last week we continued our discussion about the relationship between church and state by observing how the government can be used as an instrument for evil. We learned Christians should be armored so that we can fight against the spiritual forces (e.g the power, oppression) that we often see in our society today. We looked at some of ways the government can deceive the public into thinking that they are imposing taxes and taking property for the greater good. Unfortunately, this is not what the government should be doing and instead protecting the people. Today, we will learn what is civil disobedience and how this looks like in our society.
In Luke 2, shows us the story of Augustus Caesar and his taxation program. He authorized every single person to return to the city they were born, in order to be counted for a census. Due to this, many people had to go through many adversities. Some had to travel far and long in order to fulfill Caesar's edict. They were not coming back to their birth city because they wanted to, rather, they were coming back to submit to the governing authorities. During this time, Joseph and Mary headed on a long trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Joseph did not question Caesar's edict by saying his wife was pregnant and disobey Caesar's order. Instead, he trekked out on the road with his nine-month old pregnant wife to comply with Caesar's demand. This story of Joseph gives us insight about civil disobedience.
Is it acceptable for the church to defy the order of the state? This question has always been a controversial one in the United States. For example, in the past, many Christians opposed the idea of declaring independence from the crown of England. The debate about civil disobedience has been debated between many theologians and ethicists.
In Romans 13:1, Apostle Paul states, "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities." When Paul was saying this, he was addressing the people that were currently under the oppression of the Roman government. In verse 7, he goes on to say, "Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed." In the Westminster Confession of Faith, it also tells us, "It is the duty of people to pray for magistrates, to honor their persons, to pay them tribute or other dues, to obey their lawful commands, and to be subject to their authority, for conscience' sake. Infidelity of difference in religion, does not make void the magistrates' just and legal authority, nor free the people from their due obedience to them" (23.4). This tells us that regardless of religious differences or ideals, we still need to honor the government and pray for them. We still pay our taxes even if we disagree with how the money is being spent. Thus, we must practice "civil obedience" and submit to the rulers that were authorized to us. In addition, Christians are called to be "model citizens."
During the first and second century, many Christian apologists used this argument in order to reason with the Roman empire. Justin Martyr defended himself to the Emperor Antoninus Pius that the Christians were loyal citizens to the empire. They said that Jesus Himself told citizens to honor the emperor. Does this mean that as Christians we must always obey? No. Sproul states, "There are times when Christians are free to disobey the magistrate, but there are also times when we must disobey the civil magistrate." Let us look at Acts 4:13-17 to understand what Sproul means by this:
"13 When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. 14 But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say. 15 So they ordered them to withdraw from the Sanhedrinand then conferred together. 16 “What are we going to do with these men?” they asked. “Everyone living in Jerusalem knows they have performed a notable sign, and we cannot deny it. 17 But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn them to speak no longer to anyone in this name.”
Peter and John healed the crippled man by the power of Christ. The Jewish leaders understood that this was from God, but also knew what would happen if they admitted it. Instead of admitting that the power was from God, instead, they decided to threaten them and use their power and authority to stop them from preaching. They "warn[ed] them to speak no longer to anyone in this name." Should Peter and John submit to the authorities at this very moment? After the magistrates demanded Peter and John to be silent, they answered them, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard" (vv. 19-20). What happens when there is a conflict between God's law and the rule of men? Sproul tells us, "If any ruler-a governing official or body, school teacher, boss, or military commander- commands you to do something God forbids or forbids you from doing something God commands, not only may you disobey, but you must disobey." When it boils down to either obeying the rule of man or God's law, we must obey God.
Let us look at a few real-life applications to help us to understand when and why we should disobey. If the government commands us to have an abortion, then we would disobey because we obey a higher authority, God. If the government says that we should not preach God's word or give out the scriptures, then we would have to disobey because Christ commands us to "disciple the nations." This is why our freedom to practice religion is very important. It gives us the ability to act in our conscience. Unfortunately, what we see today is the deconstruction of the freedom of religion.
Nowadays, the ability to exercise our conscience is being slowly taken away by our governments, but interestingly, the practice of civil disobedience is still at large. We see many civil protests that argue that the Constitution is unjust and seek to violate it with every chance they can. Therefore, in order to understand civil obedience we must understand the basic principles of the relationship between church and state. Without the understanding of the God giving authority to those who are in power, there is no way one will ever obey the government. The church and state has its own spheres and as Christians we should seek to uphold our respect for both.
1) What is civil obedience? What is civil disobedience? Why is this important to understand?
2) What does Luke 2 show us? Should Mary and Joseph protested Caesar's demands?
3) What does Apostle Paul tell us to do in Romans 13? Do you agree or disagree?
4) When must we disobey? Have you ever been in a situation in which you had to disobey authorities? Have you ever been in a situation in which you wrongfully disobeyed authority?