A friend of mine recently returned from a short term missions trip to a communist country. It was almost surreal to hear her description of the state of affairs for the Christians in that place. As in most communist countries, it is strictly forbidden for an individual to mention the name of God or Jesus or to hold religious meetings outside of the state-sanctioned church. To do so meant certain imprisonment. Yet, the state-sanctioned church does not preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and is under the authority and control of an atheistic system.
This oppressive communist system places the follower of Jesus in a precarious situation. To meet or not to meet, that is the question. To meet would be to break the law. To not meet would mean to deny one of the fundamental purposes and sources of life for the church. Yet, to meet would be breaking the law and violating the New Testament’s encouragement to obey the human government under whose authority God has placed you. (1 Peter 2:13-17) What should a Christian do?
Shiphrah and Puah have some answers for us. These midwives were faced with the same dilemma. Should they obey the Pharaoh, or should they disobey the Pharaoh? Sometimes the right thing to do is to disobey. When the human political system is upholding a value that contradicts the value system of the Kingdom of Heaven then it is time for the child of God to break the law.
This scenario may seem a distant abstraction to those of us who are fat and complacent in our religious freedom, but it is not as far away as we may think. In the not too distant past a young, courageous black woman named Rosa Parks defied the laws of her state and refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white person. Her disobedience led to a wave of civil disobedience led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Sometimes unjust systems require radical acts in order to be reformed.
This scenario may not be too far off in the future either. The United States was founded on religious freedom, yet, as the polar extremes of radical, fundamentalist religious factions increasingly entrench themselves and lob verbal and literal bombs at one another, the skeptical world looks on in disdain. It is very possible that the non-religious world, out of fear and self-protection, and in an attempt to gain peace, may target religion itself as the enemy of peace and make it very difficult for anyone who claims to speak for or about God to continue in this freedom. Even those who understand the danger of the extremists and proclaim the peace of Jesus will be lumped into the “religious threat” and targeted as an enemy of the state.
What then? If such a time ever came about in America, the church could find itself in a similar situation as that of the church in communist Asia. What would you do? Would you be willing to give up your job in order to obey Jesus? Would you be willing to be imprisoned, tortured, or even killed in order to not violate the principles of the Kingdom of God? I am not trying to be an alarmist. However, these questions are everyday realities for many Christians in other countries this very day. It could happen in our lifetime. If it does, will we be ready to obey God, no matter the cost?
As Christians we must remember that human political systems are not our home. We are not Americans, or Russians, or Chinese. We are not black, or white, or Asian. We are followers of Jesus. We are a universal church that is united under the leadership of Jesus Christ, the King of all Kings, and we are citizens of the eternal Kingdom of God.