Since the Bible tells us to respect government authority, is there ever a time when we can go against laws?
In Romans we read this:
Rom. 13:1 Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.
Rom. 13:2 Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.
Rom. 13:3 For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same;
Rom. 13:4 for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.
Rom. 13:5 Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake.
Rom. 13:6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing.
Rom. 13:7 Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.
While we are commanded to respect the government as an extension of God’s authority in our lives, at times the government may ask us to violate our responsibilities to obey the Lord and His word. When a Christian faces such a circumstance, we continue to submit to the government once again, but only in the sense that we submit to the government's authority to punish us for resisting its laws. Any resulting persecution is God-ordained and should be accepted joyfully:
Matt. 5:10 “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Matt. 5:11 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.
Matt. 5:12 “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
For example, if the law required us to participate in sinful behavior, we are not free to sin and therefore we are not free to obey that law and must disobey it. Nevertheless, the government still has authority over us, so we should expect it to bring charges and penalties under the law, which we must submit to willingly.
Remember, the Lord is sovereignly orchestrating all these events. He has permitted the government to pass unrighteous laws. He has permitted the government to come against His children and persecute them when they disobey. He has commanded us to remain faithful to Him, and, therefore, He is using all these circumstances to glorify Himself by our suffering. He is using all these things for good purposes.
For a longer, in-depth teaching on this principle, we recommend you listen to our Romans Bible study, Lesson 12B.