Many Christians are still unsure about Civil Disobedience. That's why this Christmas season we need to learn wisdom and discernment from some of the first people who sought to worship Jesus: a trio of spiritual gurus from Asia.
They were the first of many in the New Testament to refuse to obey the ruling authorities.
King Herod told the Magi, "Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him."
But after the Magi found baby Jesus and gave their gifts, they were "warned in a dream not to go back to Herod" and they "returned to their country by another route" (Mt 2:8, 12).
Apparently, God told them not to do what the King had instructed.
God told them NOT to obey the ruling authority.
This was during a time when disobeying the King was a capital offense, punishable by death. It is the first recorded act of civil disobedience in the New Testament.
Take a moment to reflect on the fact that obeying the King, whose word was the law of the land, would have meant the death of an infant. Later, it meant the death of hundreds of children.
The law is not our ultimate moral guide. A few examples should suffice...
Slavery was lawful. The holocaust was legal. Segregation was legally sanctioned.
Simply put, the law does not dictate our ethics. God does. So it should not surprise us that the One we follow was executed as a criminal, and that there will be times we we are called to break unjust laws.
As St Augustine said, "An unjust law is no law at all."
Christians cannot fulfill their role in life without coming into conflict with the world system.
This Christmas, consider the actions of the three Wise Men, the first of many in the New Testament to participate in Civil Disobedience.