Why Resisting Tyrants is an Act of Love
Indeed, when a Christian’s best testimony to his neighbors is found in waiting patiently for governing officials to permit churches to gather again, thus denying Christ’s command to gather, we have a new instance of Corban—replacing the law of God with human traditions.
Addressing that subject and the new religion of universal autonomy and equality, Tom Ascol and Jared Longshore have released a new book called Strong and Courageous: Following Jesus Amid the Rise of America’s New Religion. Falling in line with newer books like Glenn Sunshine’s Slaying Leviathan and Rod Dreher’s Live Not by Lies, as well as older books like Francis Schaeffer’s A Christian Manifesto, and even older books like Samuel Rutherford’s Lex Rex: The Law and the King and Junius Brutus’s Vindiciae Tyrannos: A Defense of Liberty Against Tyrants, this new volume promises to bolster the church at a time when public silence and civil cowardice are spreading faster than COVID.
In other words, this book comes at a time when Christians and especially pastors need courage. And this will be a book I hand to many pastors, as it provides bold and biblical arguments that stand against the online pablum that undercuts biblical courage with Christian civility (read: niceness). Indeed, when a Christian’s best testimony to his neighbors is found in waiting patiently for governing officials to permit churches to gather again, thus denying Christ’s command to gather, we have a new instance of Corban—replacing the law of God with human traditions. But thankfully, some are seeing through this misguided application of Scripture and are providing solid food for God’s flock. And in Strong and Courageous, Ascol and Longshore do just that.
In particular, they observe how Christians have been lulled into a secular idea of love that says, “If you love me, you will affirm me, no questions asked.” Whether Christians recognize the connection or not, too many have been led to believe that loving neighbor means affirming and embracing the edicts of the government, no questions asked. Sure, many want to believe that their governors are doing what is in their best interest, but this gets to a fundamental question about what governors are for and how far governments can reach—do they really have the God-given authority to prescribe how your church worships? The answer is ‘No.’ Strong and Courageous gets into this subject and shows how governors have overreached—both with respect to America’s Constitution (as well as the constitutions of various states) and with respect to God’s appointed design for human rulers. For this reason, I highly commend the book.
Still, government overreach is not the point I want to highlight here. Instead, I want to stem the tide of defining Christian love in worldly ways (i.e., making moral commitments that are based on modern sentiments, rather than inspired Scripture). I fear that many Christians are attempting to bind the consciences of others in the name of Christian love with practices and priorities that do not come from Scripture itself. Rather, love has been (re)defined by a cultural catechesis delivered in public schools, by governing officials, and through an endless stream of social media influencers. Not to mention the fact that churches have done little to teach what Scripture says about church and state.
All told, Christians need to go back to Scripture and ask: What does it mean to love my neighbor? Romans 12 would be a good place to start. But outside of Scripture, Strong and Courageous provides a good counter-argument that the most loving thing we can do is to do all that our governors are saying. Actually, as they argue, the most loving thing we can do is call governors back from tyranny and fellow citizens to know the true love of God.
(N.B. If defying tyrants is an uncommon phrase, or if you are uncertain about what a tyrant looks like, go back to the list of books at the top, starting with Slaying Leviathan, and pick one up. Church history has much to offer in recognizing tyranny and understanding what Christians must do in response. American Christians have lived in relative freedom for so long, our “defying tyrants” muscles are flaccid. Some don’t know we even have them, or need them. But we do. For without that biblical duty, we cannot properly love God or our neighbor.)
Now, here is the quote in full.