Bible Lessons for Times of Civil Unrest

Text: Acts 21:30-36

During times of civil unrest, while specific details may vary in each situation, there are certain Biblical principles that we need to remember. Luke records a brief episode of civil unrest in Jerusalem (Acts 21:30-36) that was marked by violence, confusion, an increased military presence, and protests. Let us consider some Bible lessons related to civil unrest.

Civil Authority

  • God expects people to submit to civil authorities (Romans 13:1) – of course, this has limits (Acts 5:29)
  • Why submit? … they are ministers of God (Romans 13:3-4) – this is supposed to be for our good
  • However, this does not mean that the authorities are always right – some act as ministers of Satan rather than as ministers of God (Revelation 2:10)
  • Civil authorities acting as God intended will not punish, persecute, or oppress innocent people (Romans 13:3; 1 Timothy 2:1-2) – but this happened to Paul in Philippi (Acts 16:22-24, 35-40)
  • When wronged in Philippi, Paul called out the authorities for mistreatment, demanded that they come and release him, and refused to leave when they told him to – Did he violate Romans 13:1? … No (1 Peter 2:16); submission does not require us to accept abuse unnecessarily

Racism

  • Racism is often a factor in civil unrest – may be real, perceived, or contrived… but it is still a factor
  • Remember that all are made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27; Acts 17:26) – therefore, all are inherently equal (Galatians 3:28; Acts 10:34-35; Matthew 28:19)
  • Given history, it is understandable if racism is suspected in certain events – however, one should not rush to judgment (Proverbs 18:17-18), even in the case of one of a certain group (race, class, etc.) who is often oppressed (Exodus 23:1-3)
  • What if there is actual racial injustice? … show patience (2 Timothy 2:24) – there is a place for making complaints known (Acts 16:37), but not for causing a riot (Acts 24:12-13)

Personal Property

  • A common occurrence during times of civil unrest is looting – stealing is always wrong (Ephesians 4:28)
  • We are to respect the personal property rights of others – Why? … they are blessings that others have received from God (Ecclesiastes 5:18-19; 6:1-2)
  • Some are opportunists, taking advantage of a police force that is occupied/overwhelmed – stealing is wrong even with no punishment (Romans 13:5) or civil law (Romans 13:8-10)
  • Some have the wrong concept of property, believing that it all ultimately belongs to the State, so they steal/destroy the property of others as a way to protest against the authorities – individuals have personal property because of God’s blessings (Ecclesiastes 5:19); protesting civil authority by harming an individual is useless (Acts 18:12-17)

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