Let’s Go Fishing

Let's Go Fishing

This is my reply to Ed Blair of Lenoir, whose letter-to-the-editor appeared in the News-Topic on 12-3-16. Ed opens a nice can of worms. So, let’s take those worms and go fishing.

Ed was responding to my own letter, entitled “Who’s Afraid of Donald Trump?” about God’s sovereignty, and our obligation according to Romans 13 to submit to those God puts in authority. Ed asks – and rightly so – what about our forefathers who rebelled against King George? What about Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who plotted against Adolf Hitler? What about Martin Luther King, Jr., who preached nonviolent civil disobedience? And what about Republicans, who – in Ed’s mind – fought against President Obama for eight long years?

So, does God want us to submit to tyrants and evil leaders as well as to good? Or can there be exceptions to Romans 13?

Regarding our forefathers:  There were people in Jesus’ day that wanted to throw off Roman rule, just as the colonists wanted to be free of King George. Yet, Jesus never preached rebellion – never even hinted at it. In His mind, there was more at stake than political freedom – spiritual freedom. There was a kingdom far greater than the kingdom of Israel – the Kingdom of Heaven. So, if Jesus had spoken directly to our forefathers, I think He would have told them to focus on a higher prize and wait on God – their freedom would eventually come. But Americans don’t like to wait, for anything, which is part of our problem.

Regarding Dietrich Bonhoeffer, there are two ways to overcome evil:  We can focus on the evil and try to overcome it directly; or, we can focus on good and let THAT be our contribution to God’s deliverance. Evil cannot overcome good, just as darkness cannot overcome light. So, if Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his fellow conspirators had left the removal of Hitler up to God, they might have lived to see God’s deliverance.

Regarding Martin Luther King, Jr, I like the approach of William Wilberforce better:  He changed the laws of slavery in Great Britain in the early 1800s by going through legal channels, not with civil disobedience –  or, as I call it, throwing a civil temper tantrum. It took twenty years to accomplish; but the Brits have enjoyed better race relations in their country than we have in ours. Civil disobedience is a form of tyranny:  you hold people captive with your disruptive behavior until they give you what you want. It reminds me of the kid in the grocery store that does the same thing to his parent. That’s no way to behave.

As to Republicans:  He said, she said. Democrats say that Republicans didn’t cooperate with the president, Republicans say the president didn’t cooperate with them. Communication is a two-way street.

I’ll tell you what I see in all four of Ed’s examples – impatience. Instead of waiting on God, these people took matters into their own hands. Those who wait, eventually get what they want. Those who don’t, end up paying a higher price for something of far less value. As Mendelssohn says in his oratorio Elijah, “O rest in the Lord, wait patiently for Him, And He shall give thee thy heart’s desires.”

Waitsel Smith

 

 

Waitsel Smith

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{ 5 comments… add one }
  • Steve Walsman December 14, 2016, 3:29 PM

    So Waitsel do you never feel that civil disobedience is appropriate? What about pro-life behavior? Many would say to this article – that’s easy for you to say when you aren’t the one being oppressed. How would you answer them?

    Reply
    • Waitsel Smith December 15, 2016, 11:01 AM

      Steve, great questions. I believe Scripture teaches that we are to obey the laws of men up to the point that their laws go against God’s laws. NOT – as is the current fashion – up to the point that we are uncomfortable or even start to suffer. God never says that we will not suffer in this life. He only says that we are to obey Him first, and men’s laws second.

      A great example is Daniel. Daniel was told to pray only to Nebuchadnezzar. (Daniel 6) That’s a direct violation of God’s first commandment. So, instead, Daniel opened up his windows so everyone could see and he worshiped God. Another example is Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego from Daniel 3.

      In Jesus’ day, the priests were allowing the buying and selling of inferior animals for sacrifice in the Temple. Jesus came in and drove them out – an act of civil disobedience if there ever was one. (Matthew 21:12-17; John 2:13-22) Since the Temple was Jesus’ Father’s House, one might argue that He had a right to do that. Would we have had the same right?

      The High Priest ordered the Apostles not to teach or preach in Jesus’ name. (Acts 4:18-20) But they didn’t stop. (Acts 5:27-29) They were disobeying God’s appointed spiritual authority; but he had asked them to do something which violated God’s direct command to “Go, stand and speak in the Temple to the people all the words of this life.” (Acts 5:20)

      All these examples show God’s people being commanded by God to pray, worship, preach or do some other spiritual activity, and an appointed official trying to keep them from it. None of them relate to any other kind of suffering or oppression. As a matter of fact, the Children of Israel were oppressed for 400 years by the Egyptians, yet God never called for them to rebel. Rather, He had them wait for His deliverance.

      Our forefathers rebelled against King George because he made them pay taxes without giving them representation in Parliament. An injustice, admittedly; but not a justification for rebellion, as I see it.

      The Civil War was started by Southern Democrats when Lincoln, a Republican, was elected president. Again, not a justification for rebellion. If they had waited, they could have worked out their differences legally.

      Abortion is immoral, obviously. But no one is forcing anyone to have an abortion. And no one is being forced to perform an abortion. So where is the disobedience to God? We are not called to monitor others’ behavior, no matter how immoral. We are only called to hold forth the Good News and others must decide for themselves how they will respond.

      In every situation, we have to ask ourselves, “What does God say?” and “If I obey this law, will I be disobeying Him?” If not, then we are required by God to obey men’s laws – no matter how unfair, no matter how much they inconvenience us, no matter how uncomfortable they make us feel, no matter how much they make us suffer. God is the God of Order. Whatever brings order is from God. The main purpose for elected officials is to bring law and order.

      The devil is the god of chaos. Whatever brings chaos is from the devil. The main purpose behind rebellion, as far as the devil is concerned, is to bring chaos. A great example is what is happening in Syria right now. God says that rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. (I Samuel 15:23) So we have to be very careful that we are not contributors to the devil’s goals. Obeying God will always bring order out of chaos.

      Reply
      • Steve Walsman December 29, 2016, 2:56 PM

        I appreciate your responses…didn’t know you had responded so just now seeing it 🙂

        So in regards to abortion – my question was more, since abortion is murder…I know many do not believe it is, but I believe you and I agree on that…and murder violates the 10 commandments, what do you believe we as Christians are called to do about it?

        Abortion violates the 10 commandments and God commands us to come to minister to the least and the lost. Babies are some of the most helpless people on earth, how do you believe we should come to their aid.

        Reply
        • Waitsel Smith December 29, 2016, 7:07 PM

          How did William Wilberforce respond to slavery in England? He worked through the legal system to change the laws.

          We stand at an incredible place in history right now. There is a good chance that Donald Trump could appoint as many as three, possibly even four, Supreme Court Justices in the next four-to-eight years. Science is on the side of pro-lifers. Scientists believe that life begins in the womb. With the right lawyer presenting the case to the Supreme Court, the subject of abortion could be settled for generations to come.

          I think prayer and a lot of letters to the right people could turn that whole issue around. If anyone would ever publish the testimonies of some of the women that have had abortions – perhaps they have – and bring before the public the real tragedy, not just to the babies but to the women as well – that, too, would go a long way in turning things around.

          Jesus fought all His battles with words – words to God, words to men, even words to the devil. Let us go and do likewise.

          Reply
          • Waitsel Smith December 29, 2016, 8:17 PM

            Let me add two more things. First, this is a speech, given by Charlton Heston, past president of the NRA, on the importance of civil disobedience. I agree with Mr. Heston. See what you think: http://www.waitsel.com/america/Charlton_Heston.html

            Second, I’ve always believed that one person’s rights end where another person’s rights begin. The problem in the abortion issue is that it is easy to prove a mother’s rights. But how do you prove an unborn infant’s rights, especially when one side doesn’t recognize that the unborn infant is a “person.” Until that fact becomes law, which could be done with the help of scientists, the abortion issue will remain an exercise in frustration, in my opinion. If I were a pro-life leader, I would focus on getting a new “right” added to the Bill of Rights designating unborn infants as people.

            Anyhow, thanks for your diligence in pursuing this discussion.

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