Recently, I have read about people who have intentionally rebelled against a system (whether the laws of their nation, guidelines of private businesses, or societal norms), and then protest when they receive the stated consequences. Some of these people may be making moral choices in standing up to inappropriate rules (although this is often a gray area in some of the stories that we hear), but it surprises me when they complain about the results.
When a cause is so important that it involves violating the rules of another organization, change in the rules may eventually occur; however, in the meantime, those who are involved in the process of chance should expect to endure the stated consequences of breaking the rules. In fact, making a significant change for good (or reversing a long-held failure of a society) sometimes takes more than one lifetime, and not all of those who stand up for something better ever see the results (even if they have endured the resistance of those whose ideals they are trying to change for the better).
For instance, the founders of the United States declared independence from the government of England, but they didn’t have any delusions that, when they made that decision, England would continue to treat them like the rest of the British Empire. This choice cost many of them dearly, but they knew the cost of declaring independence going in, and had weighed it against the benefits.
Similarly, I think of citizens of India, who were beaten when they sat in protest against the British (not that the British Empire had any monopoly on rebelling colonies – I am just sharing examples about a couple of countries whose path to independence I happen to know more about). Pacifists in India did not expect comfort when they took a stand (figuratively) for what was right, and they did not receive kind treatment. However, their efforts eventually resulted in independence, as well.
We could also consider civil rights leaders, and many others throughout history, who endured a lot for the good of others – sometimes positive change that they never go to fully appreciate in their lifetimes.
As another example of faithfulness to the right thing, one of my favorite testimonies in the Bible comes from Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who stood up for God in the face of a powerful (albeit merely human) king:
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”
Daniel 3:16-18 NLT
While we find that God rescued these three men from the punishment that the king tried to impose on them, before this happened, they had committed to serving God even if He didn’t save them!
So, if you are called to make moral choices that run contrary to other people’s rules, by all means do so. But don’t pretend to be a victim when you experience the consequences of these choices, especially when those outcomes were known in advance.
If something is important enough to break the rules, it is important enough to cost you something. I don’t mean to sound harsh, but if you aren’t sufficiently committed to a cause that you aren’t willing to endure some discomfort, you may not want to sign up in the first place. Change is achieved by those who were willing to work for it despite the obstacles, not by those who want to have their cake and eat it, too.
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.