submissive disobedience

Disobedient, yet submissive

Many Christians don’t believe that any type of disobedience should be tolerated nor could it be biblical. However it is possible to be disobedient, while yet remain submissive. This doesn’t mean that we can be rebellious or tolerate a rebellious attitude. However, it is necessary to emphasize that in the Word of God, submission is absolute while obedience is relative. If any representative authority has overstepped the limits imposed by God, then we should not obey it.

Therefore, we can say that a father that prohibits his children from going to church or from giving their lives to Jesus should not be obeyed in this aspect nor should a husband that prohibits his wife from doing these things. Of course this should not be resolved with a challenging, argumentative or railing attitude, but with wisdom, doing the will of God. It is more important to obey God first, and then if possible human authorities. Let us examine several biblical examples that clearly show this.

Five examples of submissive disobedience

1.    Shiphrah and Puah

These two midwives disobeyed Pharaoh’s orders to kill the children and for this they were rewarded by God (Exodus 1:15-17; 21-22). Pharaoh is an example of an authority that although was constituted by God, he overstepped the limits of his authority by directly opposing God’s purposes.

2.   Rahab the prostitute

This woman had committed high treason against her own country when she hid the Hebrew spies to protect them from the authorities of Jericho. But for all of this, despite the fact that she disobeyed the authorities designated by God for the city, she was honored by God and was included in the genealogy of the Messiah Himself (Hebrews 11:3).

3.   Samuel

Saul was still the king that the Lord had given and established to rule over Israel, when Samuel was sent by the same God to anoint another king in his place (1 Samuel 16:1, 2). Such an attitude could easily have been interpreted by Saul as treason, a treacherous crime against the king, and could have cost the death of Samuel the prophet. However, God himself gave Samuel the solution. In order that Saul not find out about these plans, God instructed Samuel to merely tell Saul that he went to sacrifice a lamb to the Lord in the house of Jesse.

4.   Jonathan

At one point Saul ordered Jonathan to kill David. We know that children should obey their parents, but Jonathan did not obey Saul and was right to refuse to do so. (1 Samuel 19).

5.   Shadrach Meshach and Abednego

These three young men did not obey the command to worship the golden image built by King Nebuchadnezzar. They chose to honor God instead. Therefore, they faced the punishment and were thrown into the burning furnace however, God preserve them (Daniel 3:1-26).

6.   The apostles

The Jewish authorities ordered the apostles to stop preaching the gospel of Jesus, to which the apostles responded: “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). If the heart is submissive, it is possible to honor the leadership without always obeying it. God’s Word gives us these examples so that we can distinguish between foolish obedience and wise obedience as a reasonable expression of our submission.