Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Harriet Tubman - Is it okay to violate the law?

~Tuesday Thoughts~

Harriet Tubman rescued many slaves, thus violating the law of the land. Was it
appropriate for a Christian woman to do so?

On one hand, the Bible tells us to obey authority (Romans 13:1-7). All authority is established by God (Romans 13:1) and would not have any power if it was not given to them (John 19:11). We are to submit to authority “for the Lord’s sake” (1 Peter 2:13). Verse 15 gives us another reason to do this: “For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people.” Proverbs 24:21-22 says to “fear the Lord and the king”.

On the other hand, we don’t have to obey authority if it goes against God’s laws. Acts 5:29 clearly states that “We must obey God rather than human beings!” Acts 4:18-20 backs that up.  There are many examples of men and women in the Bible who violated the laws of the land.  Rahab hid the Jewish spies (Hebrews 11:31). Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did not bow down to the idol (Daniel 3:12). Daniel prayed when the law forbade it (Daniel 6:10). The apostles proclaimed the good news despite being told not to (Acts 4:18, 31). The church flourished in the first century A. D. despite persecutions (Acts 12:24).

But then the question comes up: does the Bible say anything explicitly against slavery? Is God against it? Is one justifiable if he violates the law to help the slaves?

On one hand, Paul in 1 Corinthians 7 wrote:  “Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so. For the one who was a slave when called to faith in the Lord is the Lord’s freed person; similarly, the one who was free when called is Christ’s slave. You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of human beings. Brothers and sisters, each person, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation they were in when God called them.” (verses 21-24, NIV). Based on this, Tubman’s actions were not right.

On the other hand, God brought His nation out of Egyptian slavery (Exodus 20:2). He created everyone in His image (Genesis 1:27). Some believe that “the Bible condemns race-based slavery in that it teaches that all men are created by God and made in His image (Genesis 1:27). At the same time, the Old Testament did allow for economic-based slavery and regulated it.”. If this is so, Harriet Tubman’s actions were appropriate for America’s situation of race-based slavery.

Thus, one’s opinion on the appropriateness of Harriet Tubman’s actions depends on his or her interpretation of Scriptural passages.

What do you think?


  1. Thought provoking post, Sofia! One very clear scenario of when it is ok to violate the law would be the story of Corrie ten Boom. When the Nazis took over the Netherlands, she hid the Jews even though it was against the law. Some people used the verse about submitting to authority to give themselves an excuse not to help.

    Besides breaking the law, Corrie ten Boom lied to the Nazis about having a radio, and in prison some of her fellow prisoners stole vitamins/medicine from the Nazis. When the Devil is in power, it's not God's will for us to obey him. We are servants of God, not the servants of men. And when men's laws violate God's laws, we know which ones to obey!

  2. Oh, and in rambling I lost touch with your main topic here, I'm afraid. If it were my family/friends in slavery, I believe I'd do the same as Tubman did. I would think God's law was violated in kidnapping the slaves in the first place. Anyway, good post; I like it when people challenge me to think.

    1. I'm glad you liked the post, Bethany! It's a very hard topic because, well, the government back in the first century wasn't much better than Nazis and slavery and all. :( But, yes, if God's law says to do one thing and men's says to do something else it's obvious which one to obey!