EDITOR’S NOTE: The following was written for, and used with the permission of, Liberty Institute.
Not many people look forward to going to court. From jury duty to car wrecks to business matters, resorting to a court is an unattractive proposition for anyone. And, for those called to live at peace with all men (Romans 12:18), pursuing a legal action for a Christian can seem to threaten our very sanctification.
Though God has blessed each of his creatures with the human right to religious liberty, threats to that freedom religious liberty grow daily in our country. And, often, the chief offender is the same government tasked with protecting our freedom to believe, live, and do business according to our faith. When your religious liberty is in jeopardy, should the faithful Christian resort to a legal action?
Before proceeding with a legal action, consider the following five questions:
1. Is this an opportunity to glorify God?
2. Has the government exceeded its just authority?
Romans 13:1-7 makes clear that, governmental authority is limited by the God who invented the idea for human government. Our call to submit ourselves to the human government God has placed over us, does not mean we do so blindly and absolutely. We are subjects, first, to Christ and His government; we subject ourselves to human government out of reverence to Christ. (1 Peter 2)
Human government is not perfect. When human government exceeds its rightful authority, it acts unjustly. An unjust government asserts authority that it has not been given and disrupts the image of the Gospel that God has intended the picture of human government to serve.
Paul recognized this as well. In Acts 16, the city leaders of Philippi denied Paul the right of due process, a right guaranteed to him as a Roman citizen. He and Silas, were deprived of due process and summarily thrown in jail for casting a demon out of a young slave girl. God used that injustice for great good, foremost the conversion of the Philippian jailer – and his entire family!
But it is the scene the next day that is sometimes overlooked. When the Roman leaders of Philippi realized that they had deprived a Roman citizen of his right to due process, they sought to escort him out the back door to the city, hoping to avoid the penalty (which, under Roman law, was death) that would fall on them for governing unjustly.
Paul would have none of it and insisted that the city leaders themselves publicly acknowledge their error and apologize. They did and, without having to resort to a lawsuit, Paul encouraged the brethren in Philippi and went on to heed the Macedonian Call.
When human government exceeds its authority, it supposes to act as a god unto itself. As faithful citizens of heaven, and America, we are to insist that government act justly and within its proper place, itself being subject to the reign of Christ.
Theologian and statesman, Abraham Kuyper once said, “The State may never become an octopus, which stifles the whole of life. It must occupy its own place, on its own root, among all the other trees of the forest, and thus it has to honour and maintain every form of life, which grows independently, in its own sacred autonomy.” (Lectures on Calvinism at 124)
Kuyper continues to explain that individual citizens are meant to remind the government of its place under a sovereign God. A government overstepping its authority damages those it is charged with governing justly and dooms itself to defeat. He warns that, “A nation, consisting of citizens whose consciences are bruised, is itself broken in its national strength.” (Id. at 141)
It falls to us as the citizens who direct our representative government to ensure that our government governs justly. When it does not, legal action may be necessary to heal the bruise inflicted upon our conscience.
. . . . continues tomorrow . . . .
Jeremy Dys is President and General Counsel of The Family Policy Counsel of West Virginia. In addition to his duties of providing strategic vision and leadership to the FPCWV, Dys is the chief lobbyist and spokesman. Dys is regularly featured in local, state, and national print, radio, and television outlets. He lives close to Charleston with his wife and growing family.
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