Christians have long debated whether there is a moral responsibility to resist injustice, largely because the Apostle Paul writes in Romans 13 to “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers.” The Bible, however, is full of examples where the higher powers were resisted by men of God. Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt against the Pharaoh’s dictates, and a new nation under God was established. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to worship a false god, and were cast into a furnace for it. Daniel prayed to God against the king’s orders and was thrown into the lion’s den. If all authority is appointed by God, as Paul writes, then they are to act justly. This is part of the social contract, making unjust laws no laws.
The social contract is derived from what men call the Law of Nature, which is the basis of all morality as given by God through the Ten Commandments. The Law of Nature commands that we love one another and do no harm to others’ life, health, liberty or possessions. The social contract is the consent of society to submit to a governing body that protects them against the transgressors of the Law of Nature. Herein, is the establishment of laws, judges, and the power to enforce the laws. We are instructed in Romans 12:21 to “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” The very next verse says to be subject to the higher powers for they are put in place by God. Overcome evil, but obey authority.
Context lends insight. 1 Peter 2:13-14 says, “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake…as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.” Then Peter writes in verse 16, “[Live] As free, and not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.” In Acts 4 and 5, Peter and the Apostles were forbidden by the “rulers of the people, and the elders of Israel” to teach in the name of Christ. Peter and John’s response was, “Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, you judge.” They were thrown into prison. When they were let out, they were forbidden again to speak about Christ. Acts 5:29 gives the answer to such a command: “We ought to follow God rather than men.” This, among many examples.
Isaiah 10:1 says, “Woe unto them that decree evil statutes, and who write unjust decisions; to deprive the needy of justice, and rob the poor of my people of their rights, that widows may be their prey, and that they may plunder the fatherless.” Isaiah 1:17 instructs: “Learn to do well; seek justice, relieve the oppressed, bring justice to the fatherless, plead for the widow.” My conclusion is that when life, health, possessions and liberty are no longer protected under the social contract, and when government becomes tyrannical, acting against the interests of the people, the people not only have the legal right, but also the moral obligation, to resist unjust laws and unjust authority. The Bible is our witness.