Take a moment to join me at the coffee bar where Nate and Stan are having a conversation. Nate has waited most of the year for his opportunity to share the Gospel message and Stan has just thrown the door wide open:
Stan: So you’re telling me that any time we disobey God, it’s a sin?
Nate: Yes. And sin requires punishment – eternal separation from God. Since all that is good comes from God, nothing good can exist in this place of separation. We call it Hell. But Christ came and took that punishment for us. All we have to do is accept His gift.
Stan: And then we can do whatever we want?
Nate: Of course not! When you receive a gift like that, you want to show the Giver that you appreciate His sacrifice. We do that through obedience to God’s commands.
Stan: Doesn’t the Bible say that you’re supposed to obey those in authority?
Nate: Yes. Why?
Stan: Because I saw you parking in the main parking lot the other day… not the staff parking area. The boss was pretty explicit about where we were supposed to park.
Nate: Well, that’s different. The staff parking is so far away from the door. Management can’t really expect us all to walk through the cold to get to work. We’d all get sick!
You can probably see where this dialogue is headed. While Nate talked boldly about sin and its consequences, it was clear that the way he lived (and his justification of his lifestyle) reflected a less-than-serious attitude towards sin. His failure to obey “every human institution” (as commanded in 1 Peter 2:13) reflected an even more serious problem in regard to his submission to God.
As Christians, we need to be careful about how we live – especially if we want the opportunity to share the good news about God’s love with others. That’s not to say that we’ll get it right all of the time or even that we’ll clearly recognize every sin as sin. But it does mean that we need to be open to admitting sin when we recognize that what we’ve done directly contradicts God’s Word.
It also means that we can’t just pick and choose which laws we will or won’t obey… regardless of whether they are constitutional (as in my objection to paying taxes in last week’s post)… or good. This may mean that at times we have to sacrifice what is rightfully ours to unjust management or a corrupt official. We may have to bend our will to that of congress or the city council, even when the actions they take fail to align with our views of righteousness. Scripture is clear that unless a law directly contradicts God’s Word, those who follow Christ are bound to obey it. To do otherwise is sin. And none of us should take that lightly.