Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the three-year lectionary.
During the season of Easter the Church typically replaces the Old Testament reading with a reading from Acts, the New Testament book which traces the historical development of Christianity for a bit over 20 years after the resurrection.
As we meet the apostles in Acts 5:29-42, they have been arrested for preaching Jesus. The Jewish court has ordered them not to preach in Jesus’ name any more. The apostles refuse to stop their proclamation.
This takes us by suprise. Normally we take the fourth commandment, “honor your father and your mother” to apply also to submitting to the other leaders God has placed over us. Yet the Christian leaders don’t submit to the court. Why is this? The court is directing them to disobey the command which they received from God. They cannot obey both.
The idea of resistance and civil disobedience is popular in the United States just now. Those who think their leaders are wrong are tending to resist more than they have at some other times in history. This is a way to urge authorities and a whole culture to change an opinion. However, the Christian should engage in such protests carefully. In the Bible we see that the disobedience is based on one very simple thing. Accepting the command of the court will cause the disciples to violate God’s command. This happens relatively rarely in this country. More often, the resistance which is urged is a protest against a cultural or governmental attitude. Yet my government’s failure to do good for people does not force me to do evil. My government’s allowing evil to thrive in my nation does not force me to do evil.
As Paul says in Galatians chapter 2, there are no laws against doing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, or self control.
The Jewish court decides not to oppose the disciples too forcefully. If their movement is a merely human one, it will fail. If it has divine origins, it will succeed. So the disciples are permitted to leave, not without a penalty. Yet they are able to go about doing good. Their disobedience shows care for others. It does not harm. It builds up. May God use his servants in just the same way in this age.
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