What is Civil Disobedience?
According to Nick Gier, 2006, Civil disobedience may be defined as an act of refusing to obey certain demands, laws or commands instilled by the government or any other ruling authority. In other words, civil disobedience is the act of rebelling against the government or the ruling party without resorting to violent means. Hence it is sometimes referred to as nonviolent resistance. (Nick Gier, 2006)
Civil disobedience strongly advocates against the use of violence. (Nick Gier, 2006) However, violence is sometimes inevitable in these clashes. Take for example you decide to demonstrate against the corrupt nature of government officials in many governmental organizations. You may decide to take your grievances to the streets and in doing so, attract the law enforcing agency to intervene. Although violence is inevitable, such a clash may force you to defend yourself hence the entire situation turns violent. Resistance to arrest may also stir up some form of violence.
(Nick Gier, 2006) asserts that there are three types of civil disobedience. These are the integrity -based civil disobedience, Justice-based civil disobedience and finally Policy-based civil disobedience. He goes on to elaborate all three of them as follows:
Integrity-based civil disobedience occurs when a person chooses to disobey a law they feel to be immoral in their own beliefs. A good example is the case of abolitionists refusing to abide by the slave trade law. Justice-based civil disobedience occurs when someone breaks the law in order to complain about some unfair treatment that was subjected unto them and finally, Policy-based civil disobedience occurs when a person is prompted to break the law in order to rule out some policy that is deemed to be unfair or unjust according to his or her beliefs.
How is Civil Disobedience relevant to Christians?
Civil disobedience manifests itself as a dilemma to many Christians of today. (Norman Gessler, 2010) Christians are always in a state of tension between the demands of the Christian faith and the worldly demands. (Norman Gessler, 2010) This is what forms the basis of the dilemma. Civil disobedience in relation to Christianity according to (Norman Gessler, 2010) may be defined as a purposeful, non-violent act or a refusal to act by a Christian who believes that such an action is required of him or her to display faithfulness to God but at the same time seen as an act of law violation by the relevant authorities.
It is, however, important to note the biblical point of view of the laws and regulations that are enacted by earthly beings. The general stance of the bible is that Christians are to strictly abide by these rules and regulations set by the government. (Norman Gessler, 2010) Such can be located in the following biblical chapters.
1st Peter 2:13-15 in the new international version states “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to the governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men” and also Titus 3:1-2 “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men” These verses clearly show that all Christians should respect the rules of government given unto by the leaders God has chosen for them.
What Should Christians do When Faced with a Choice of Civil Disobedience?
The bible has clearly stated that all Christians should respect all authority because leadership is God given and the authority members are all handpicked by God himself. (Norman Gessler, 2010) However, some things still remain controversial. The bible clearly states authority rule should be respected. Paul himself was quite willing to use the Roman Legal System following his arrest and he witnessed in new ways because of it. Jesus also began to preach to the Jews at a time in which there was high tension with their rulers.
According to, Norman Gessler, (2010), Christians should do the following when faced with Civil Disobedience dilemmas, they should first look at the rule itself. They should then go on to establish what the bible says about it. After acquiring knowledge on the bible’s stance on the particular matter. The individual should act according to the bible’s recommendations. The bible is a spiritual guidance tool and it can never offer misleading information. (Norman Gessler, 2010). So, in short, if the practice goes against the wishes of the bible it should never be executed at all costs.
One most important thing that the Christian should do is pray for guidance from God. He or she should pray for guidance in making the correct decision. After doing so, the Christian resides in faith that what they are doing goes hand in hand with the wishes of the most high.
Nick Gier (January 15, 2006), “Three Principles of Civil Disobedience: Thoreau, Gandhi, and King, Lewiston” Morning Tribune
Gessler, Norman (2010) “Christian Ethics: Contemporary Issues and Options.” 2nd Edition.