Peter and the other apostles set the example: when told by authorities they could not testify to the risen and ascended Christ, they responded, "We must obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29). So we know that Christians must not obey authorities when their command directly contradicts God and his revealed Word. This is the basis for Christian civil disobedience.
From there, however, things get complicated and personal. As Albert Mohler describes in this substantive new video, we Christians living in the West can now envision a time when we ask for God's protection from our authorities. Earlier this year The Falls Church in Virginia, led by long-time rector John Yates, lost their meeting facility, assets, and parsonage in a decisive court judgment after years of fighting to leave a denomination where many have stopped preaching the gospel. Tim Keller sketches the scene in New York City, where many elected officials shook church leaders with hostile opposition to the "invasion" of evangelical worship in public schools.
No doubt, our culture is changing. Christians are no longer respected or understood as we once were, Yates observes. But watch to the end of this video, when Yates calls on Christians to focus on what's important, reject superficial faith, and identify with our truly persecuted brothers and sisters around the world. Indeed, when we suffer loss and opposition for our faith, we can rejoice as believers counted worthy of suffering for the name of Jesus (Acts 5:41). Hear the words of James, who told us, "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness" (James 1:2-3). If you suffer, Yates says, maybe you really are a Christian after all.
Collin Hansen serves as editorial director for The Gospel Coalition. Formerly an associate editor for Christianity Today magazine, he is the author of Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist’s Journey With the New Calvinists and co-author with John Woodbridge of A God-Sized Vision: Revival Stories That Stretch and Stir. He earned an MDiv at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and an undergraduate degree in journalism and history from Northwestern University. He and his wife belong to Redeemer Community Church in Birmingham, Alabama, and he serves on the advisory board of Beeson Divinity School. You can follow him on Twitter.