Sunday, June 24, 2018

Obeying God vs. Man

Burger King once used the advertising slogan, “Sometimes, you gotta break the rules.” If you’re truly living for the Lord, He will occasionally lead you to do things that may seem risky and go against man-made laws. Sometimes I have evangelized in shopping malls even though security people will try to stop that because they consider it “soliciting.”

A recent exchange of emails with a Facebook friend about illegal immigration reminded me of a situation that happened fifteen years ago. In April 2003, I flew to Berlin to share the gospel in Germany. Originally I was scheduled to fly back to the U. S. a month later but opted not to despite my return ticket classified “non-refundable.” The Lord told me my leaving Germany then would be in His permissive will but not His perfect will. Eventually, He led me to visit other European nations.

By September I was in Spain and perceived it was time to come home. One day I went to the Madrid airport hoping the airline would let me use my old return ticket. The representative I talked to put a reservation into her computer, which was denied by the airline’s home office. But when I returned to the place I was staying, a friend had called saying the Lord instructed him to buy me another airline ticket!

When I started my flight back to the Washington, DC area, one concern I had was what to say while going through customs. I found out an American could legally stay in the European Union without a visa for only 90 days every six months. After changing planes in Amsterdam, I was given a customs declaration form to fill out. One question that needed to be answered was which foreign countries I visited. The form had space to write down only two but I had been in seven on this trip. I asked a flight attendant what I should do. She told me to put down the last two countries I’d been in. 

Later at Dulles Airport, the customs official examined my declaration form and asked me how long I was in Spain and the Netherlands (the total time for both was just over a month). He didn’t inquire about any other countries I visited. The only thing that raised his eyebrows was my post office box listed as a permanent address. I explained that I’m a missionary who lives in various places for short periods of time but uses a PO Box in Virginia to collect my mail. The man shook his head and waved me through.

This testimony is not to encourage anyone to purposely overstay their visit to a foreign nation. Whenever possible, we should obey the laws of the land that don’t violate Scripture. Still, God will give grace and favor to those obedient to the Great Commission. 

The laws of man are superseded by the higher laws of God.

“But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: ‘We ought to obey God rather than men.’” - Acts 5:29 

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