Does it matter if you don’t comply with Government Requirements?

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Submission to authority is all well and good when you agree with the instructions or requirements – but what happens when you don’t want to comply? Does it matter to God?

Is there anything in the bible that helps us understand what the consequences might be if we choose to go against the wishes of the authorities in our lives?

Every day for pretty much the last year, my husband Brad and I have been going for a walk along the bay foreshore near where we live at lunchtime.

It’s been great to get out of the house, to breathe some fresh air and get some exercise.

Yesterday, while we were out walking we were stopped by an older woman wearing a face mask, who commented on the fact that we were both also wearing face masks, and asked us why we were choosing to wear them.

Now as I just said, Brad and I have been out walking pretty much every day for the last 12 months, most of that time while wearing masks when we were required to – and this was literally the first time we’ve been stopped and asked this question.

As it turns out, this lady had been stopping just about everyone she walked past because, as someone who thought that everyone should be following the rules set by the government (and at the moment it is mandatory to wear masks everywhere except in your own home) – she was totally perplexed by how many people weren’t following the government’s rules.

We actually stopped and chatted to her for a while and she was telling us about the various responses she had received from all the people she had spoken to, most of them who had not been wearing masks.

In a lot of ways she was being courageous, approaching groups of strangers of various sizes to challenge them on why they weren’t following the rules.

Brad and I, of course, took the opportunity to explain our belief that all authorities, including the state government, are put in place by God – and that by honouring those authorities we are, in effect, honouring God.

But it was interesting, because so many of the people this woman had spoken to had indicated that although they KNEW that the rules said they should be wearing masks, they had a whole pile of different reasons for making the personal decision to not wear a mask.

Later on, after we got home, I found myself pondering the question of whether there are any circumstances when it is ok to directly and disobediently refuse to follow the lawful instruction of someone whom God has placed in authority over us.

There is only one exception that I’ve found in the bible, as to when you shouldn’t honor someone in a position of leadership or authority over you – and that applies when that person is giving you an instruction where complying would cause you to disobey one of God’s commands.

There are two examples that come to mind where people chose to directly disobey a leader, and in both cases God shielded them from the worldly consequences of their actions.

The first one is the case of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who disobeyed King Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel chapter 3.

The king had made a giant gold statue and commanded everyone to bow down and worship the statue every time they heard certain music played.

Some astrologers decided to let the King know that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego weren’t doing as they were told and were refusing to worship the king’s statue.

So the king calls the three of them in, asks for an explanation and gives them a second chance to worship the statue, threatening that if they refuse, he’ll throw them into the furnace – but they do refuse – making it very clear to the king that they won’t be bowing down to his statue or serving any other gods.

So the king gets pretty angry – the bible says he is ‘furious’ – and he orders the furnace to be heated seven times hotter than usual before selecting his strongest soldiers to throw the three men (who had also been tied up) into the furnace.

The furnace is so hot that it kills all of the soldiers, causing Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to fall in.

Miraculously, God intervenes – and the king sees four people walking around unharmed in the fire. He calls for them to come out, and Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego end up with a promotion each. And here’s another example.

It’s the example of Daniel in the den of lions from Daniel Chapter 6.

In this story, we’ve got a genuine case of tall poppy syndrome. Daniel’s peers were trying to get rid of him because his exceptional qualities and ability to get his job done were making them look bad – and they knew that the only way to bring him down was by changing the law to make prayer illegal.

We’re told that Daniel learns that the decree banning prayer has been published, but he continues to pray and give thanks to God three times a day – just as he had done before the new law had been passed.

So these men go as a group, they find Daniel praying and go to the King to dob him in.

We’re told the king was ‘greatly distressed’ and tried to find a way to save Daniel – but that decrees made by the king simply can’t be changed.

So Daniel is thrown into the den with the lions, and the king has an uncomfortable sleepless night.

Again, God miraculously intervenes to protect his person – an angel shuts the mouths of the lions.

And notice Daniel’s answer – this is in Daniel chapter 6 verses 21 and 22 : “May the king live forever! My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, Your Majesty.”

So we’ve got two stories of what can happen when we choose to disobey earthly leaders for the sake of obedience to God.

Daniel has just been effectively sentenced to death by this King – and yet he’s still expressing honor towards him.

I want you to notice something really important from both of these examples.

In both cases, the authority figure had given a directive for which the process of complying would have caused Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego and in the second example Daniel, to disobey God – and so God shielded them from the negative consequences associated with their punishment.

But notice this – God doesn’t prevent the punishment from happening.

And despite being effectively sentenced to death for their disobedience to human authority, these men all continue to show honor to those human authorities, before, during and after their punishment was carried out. Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego and Daniel knew who they were and what they stood for as individuals, and they knew that it was God whom they ultimately were serving.

Today, regardless of the situation that you find yourself in, and whether or not you personally agree with the actions and requirements of those who are in authority over you – let’s make a conscious decision to honor those leaders.

Until next time, blue skies!

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