Resistance is Futile, No?

Christians should submit to the authorities that God has placed over them, says the Bible. Yet, the early church resisted Caesar's demand to worship idols. When is law-breaking and resistance justified? Is political violence ever permissible?

Question for discussion: When is it right for Christians to resist governing authorities? Can such resistance be violent, even deadly? Or should Christians do nothing to resist evil authorities and instead allow persecution to happen, even to the point of death? What do we mean by 'fighting with spiritual weapons'?

For context, let us remember that the Bible declares in the Book of Romans, chapter 13:1-2:

“Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.”

The Christian tradition has always placed a high value on martyrdom - laying down of one's life as witness to faith in Jesus Christ. The early church was bitterly persecuted and tortured and murdered on many occasions during the days of the Roman Empire. Yet Christian's did not rise up in arms or sabotage against Rome, but trusting in God's soon return and the establishing of His Eternal Kingdom, went to their deaths willingly. Nevertheless, the church has been called into direct confrontation with evil, to resist it, to call it for what it is, and to speak truth to power.

In a context of political evil and persecution, what conditions could turn someone from a pacifist to a violent resister or revolutionary? What other forms of resistance are legitimate if violence is not? Everyone is welcome. All viewpoints are important.

Slides for 'Resistance is Futile' (Click pointer on movie screen to advance the slides.)