R24 Disobeying the law

The laws of each country are generally made with great care and for the wellbeing of their citizens. As responsible citizens, it is really important that we obey these laws for the good of the country.

However, sometimes laws exist that go against what we know to be fair and just for all people. Some laws may only benefit the rich. Some laws cause real suffering for poor people or certain groups. For example, in some countries it is against the law to be a Christian! There may be occasions when we feel that it is more important to question the law than to obey it, for the benefit of those people suffering from the consequences.

By raising awareness of unjust laws, we may help to find new answers, new hopes and new voices to rise and free people from that threat.

  • Read Exodus 1:15-22. The people of Israel were living in exile in Egypt. They knew God’s blessing even in exile and continued to multiply. The Egyptians were alarmed at this. They used the Israelites to provide forced labour for them. What was the reason for the new law made by the king of Egypt (in verses 15 and 16)?
  • Why did the midwives disobey this law? What defence did they give when questioned by the king? What can we learn from their actions and their defence?
  • What was the result of their actions for the midwives (verses 20-21)?
  • What should we do when faced with laws that are clearly against God’s teaching? Can we think of any examples?
  • What could we do to raise concerns over such laws?
  • What actions could we take – as individuals, as a group or as a church? Are we prepared to face potentially violent reaction with non-violence? 
  • In the USA in 1955, an ordinary black woman called Rosa King refused to give up her rightful bus seat to a white person. This led to her arrest, imprisonment and a huge bus boycott by black people that eventually led to a change in the race relation laws. Can we think of any other examples where people have disobeyed an unjust law and brought good from their actions?

Articles 6, 8, 19, 20 UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights