In the fight against same-sex marriage, a number of Christian leaders are warning, “We will not obey. . . . We respectfully warn the Supreme Court not to cross that line,” reads a document titled Pledge in Solidarity to Defend Marriage. “We stand united together in defense of marriage. Make no mistake about our resolve.”
Do they have a biblical case for refusing to comply? If Christians are making a biblical case against same-sex marriage, they need a biblical case for Christian resistance.
“In 1660 John Bunyan disobeyed the law of England by preaching without a license. He was arrested at a church meeting and put in prison so damp that he said it was enough to ‘make the moss grow on one’s eyebrows.’ There he converted his prison into a pulpit and wrote the greatest of all Christian classics, Pilgrim’s Progress. He was told that he would be released if he promised not to further violate the law for which he was imprisoned, but he refused to do so. He was arrested two more times for the same act of disobedience.”1
Bunyan was in good company. Peter and John were arrested “because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead” (Acts 4:2). Even after their release, like Bunyan, they continued to preach the gospel, “for we cannot stop speaking what we have seen and heard” (v. 20).
Some Christians conclude, based solely on their understanding of Romans 13 and Matthew 22:21 without any consideration of other passages, that Christians are obligated to obey those in authority no matter what the command or circumstances.
As Christians make an impact on society, they can expect harsh treatment from those who have “no king but Caesar” (John 19:15). At the preaching of the gospel, “Jason and some brethren” were dragged “before the city authorities” with the following charge made against them (Acts 17:6): “These men [Paul and Silas] who have upset the world have come here also; and Jason has welcomed them, and they all act contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus” (17:6-7; cf. 4:12).
The early Christians faced numerous challenges by angry citizens and powerful ecclesiastical and civil rulers.
Without explicit biblical guidelines, resistance can lead to revolution. The Bible does not support either anarchy or revolution as ways to advance God’s kingdom. The church has always been anti-revolutionary but pro-resistance…
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