White: God and Government

I have written previously about obeying God above all else. Examples:

Today I found the following two paragraphs in The Acts of the Apostles (Ch. 6, “At the Temple Gate”):

We are to recognize human government as an ordinance of divine appointment, and teach obedience to it as a sacred duty, within its legitimate sphere. But when its claims conflict with the claims of God, we must obey God rather than men. God’s word must be recognized as above all human legislation. A “Thus saith the Lord” is not to be set aside for a “Thus saith the church” or a “Thus saith the state.” The crown of Christ is to be lifted above the diadems of earthly potentates.

We are not required to defy authorities. Our words, whether spoken or written, should be carefully considered, lest we place ourselves on record as uttering that which would make us appear antagonistic to law and order. We are not to say or do anything that would unnecessarily close up our way. We are to go forward in Christ’s name, advocating the truths committed to us. If we are forbidden by men to do this work, then we may say, as did the apostles, “Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” (p. 69)

Reflection Questions

  1. What is the government’s “legitimate sphere”? The Roman government did all kinds of things that were out of harmony with morality as outlined by Jewish prophets and yet Jesus still said to pay taxes–give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and give to God what belongs to God. Where do we draw the line and say, “This I will not do?”
  2. Seventh-day Adventists view John the Baptist as an example for our work of preparing people to meet Jesus (second coming instead of his first appearance). Part of John’s work–which brought persecution to be sure–was to call out the sins of government leaders (Luke 3:19-20). Therefore, it seems that one aspect of our work is to speak truth to power even when not participating in extreme measures like civil disobedience. How can communication against corrupt leaders and unjust laws be voiced in ways that are constructive and not “appear antagonistic to law and order”?
  3. This one excerpt sounds like White means only to disobey church and state when those powers restrict religious liberty; however, the posts linked above demonstrate she applied this to other issues as well, such as the Fugitive Slave Act. What principles guide how we relate to the powers in both church and state (including the SDA church)?
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