The rising tide of civil disobedience highlights different approaches Christians are taking

Should a Christian ever deliberately disobey the law in America? Randall J. Heckman and Everett G. Sileven have recently answered, “Yes,” and are paying a price for it.

They do not object to distinguishing between private and official spheres of authority. They agree that Paul authorized both. Individually we are to love our enemies and not act vengefully toward them (Rom. 12:19–20), yet the state has a God-given right to “bear the sword,” and to use force to restrain evil (Rom. 13:4). Both men accept the difference between personal ethics (refusing to take the law privately into our own hands) and the ethics of politics (the duty of society to restrict evildoers and to punish their evildoing). Some things that might be wrong for us if we acted personally, might be right for a policeman who officially represented his government and acted legally.

But though Heckman and Sileven accept this distinction, they have still run afoul of the law. The two cases, however, do not have equal merit.

The Case Of Judge Randall J. Heckman

Heckman is a highly regarded probate judge in Grand Rapids, Michigan. As befits his office, he has a solid reputation as a man of law and order. He is also a committed evangelical who not only loves his country, but also seeks to obey Christ and live by Scripture. Last November a 13-year-old girl five months pregnant came before his court, demanding her legal right to abort because she did not want her child. Judge Heckman refused her petition.

Ten years ago he would have been found guilty of a crime if he had so much as given her encouragement. But in 1973 the United States Supreme Court ruled that all state laws making ...

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