I am about to lead a Bible study on civil disobedience. I have never been to a Bible study on civil disobedience. Perhaps that’s because back in the day Christians simply participated in civil disobedience as they would not compromise their faith. Martin Luther King, Jr. was quoted as saying, “We must expose injustice and make injustice so uncomfortable that it has to be dealt with.” So he and so many others with him did just that.
No Bible study on civil disobedience, no sermon on being ‘in the world but not of it,’ just simply action founded on faith. Nowadays we respond with a heartfelt discussion about Romans 13:1-2 and wrestle with whether it’s really ok to disobey. The irony is not the lack of action on our own part, but that Paul wrote the book of Romans while in prison for faithfully following Jesus instead of complying with Rome’s edicts.
It also seems to me that Jesus did some of His own civilized disobedience. He was accused of insurrection, of treason, of sacrilege.
Moses’ mother committed civil disobedience stowing him away to prevent his death. Moses then defied Pharaoh, taking his people out from under his rule.
David committed civil disobedience running for his life away from Saul, defying a king whose word was law.
Elijah committed civil disobedience by defying the prophets of Baal, disproving their god and having them executed.
Paul defied the religious elite along with the Roman empire, went to jail numerous times and died being civilly disobedient.
What they didn’t do was get caught up in semantics…
This is a self-critique…. I think it is all well and good to have a significant discussion about important issues, civil disobedience among others. What we do, what we have turned civil disobedience into, is semantics… rhetoric… words…
To truly disobey is to act… to walk across a bridge knowing what’s on the other side… not to simply talk about what’s on the other side, to debate about what might happen if we do it, what Jesus might think or if there are Bible verses to support one perspective more than another… but to do…
To act… to live out your convictions… to align faith with deeds.
The term “Holy Troublemakers” was coined in a book I am reading (Red Letter, it’s in the sidebar). I think we need more churches full of “Holy Troublemakers.” Holy meaning “like Jesus” and troublemakers meaning those willing to disobey civilly. For too long there has been a compromise of faith, due to political agendas, national interest, and general selfishness.
I am growing weary of it…
Just so we are on the same page here is a list of individuals I aspire to emulate in their holy troublemaking:
- Sleeping on the sidewalk with the homeless after your city deems this illegal. Setting precedence by being arrested, thrown in jail, put on trial and placed before a judge who after hearing your story supports your actions and begins working to change the law.
- Conscientiously objecting to war because of faith-based beliefs that we are not to take the life of another in the midst of the Vietnam draft. After two nights of jail time served, released on “good behavior.”
- Walking across the bridge from Selma to Montgomery to fight the injustice or racial discrimination. Taking a beating, being attacked by dogs and hosed down yet still civil in defiance that would ultimately lead to the right to vote even if some paid the ultimate price for the cause.
- Sitting in the front of the bus instead of the back.
- Harboring vulnerable people groups from oppressive rulers who sought to enslave, irradicate, or remove altogether.
- Questioning those in authority, even if “ordained by God,” whose behavior is anything but godly
and so on…
I think I want to be more like them… Sounds more “holy” than the actions of so of the self-proclaimed Christians of today. Sounds a lot like loving God with your everything and loving your neighbor as yourself. It looks a lot like treating others how you want to be treated. There is nothing of judgment mentioned, no political statement required, but simple action instead of words.
Faith without deeds is dead…
I must show my faith by my “holy troublemaking” deeds…
Won’t you join me?