Post by: May-Lee Melki
As a law student I consider it a moral duty to deepen my knowledge on global issues that continue to cause so much despair and injustice around the world. I came to Regent University from Beirut, Lebanon to attain an excellent education on the rule of law and the power of its intersection with the gospel. Moreover, joining the Center for Global Justice as a member of the student staff is an answer to prayer because the mission of the Center at its core is “Securing Human Rights and Advancing the Rule of Law from a Christian Perspective.”
I grew in a part of the world where lawmakers unfortunately leverage their own religious beliefs to manipulate the black letter law. In Lebanon, a sectarian country by definition, majority religions have constitutional power to bias the government and discriminate against minority religious groups. One’s religion is defined on one’s national identification and depending on which one of the 18 religious sects you belong to; some doors may open, and others will be permanently closed, a matter which has caused an uprising by the people in 2019 demanding a secular state.
Naturally, I’ve been struggling with this notion of what it really means to secure the rule of law from a Christian perspective. On one hand, Jesus’ teachings of compassion, love, and redemption are positive influences on the law, and on the other hand, when religion becomes institutionalized within the law, we have seen its repercussions in places like Lebanon with religious courts justifying some of the most compassion-less, love-less, and atrocious acts.
In my understanding of scripture, the Lord works through his people and raises up earthly leaders to rule. As a Lebanese citizen I lived under the authority of corrupt leaders who rooted their behavior in righteous acts of faith, whether Christian or not. My approach to obeying or opposing them as a Middle Eastern follower of Jesus Christ was never based on my approval of them. On the contrary, it was always based on a consistent checks and balances of their leadership, or lack thereof, against Biblical teachings.
My faith in God’s word liberates me to trust that living under wicked earthly rulers in the name of religion independent from proper legislative processes, is not an act of worship to the God of love that I know. Even though the general rule is that we have a duty to God to obey the government, when there is a direct conflict between God’s commands, we must obey God rather than men. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to keep fighting with my fellow citizens over religion, but I do want to demonstrate to them a pure Christ-like perspective as I operate within the justice system so I can leave room for conversations about Jesus, the ultimate Chief Justice.
Therefore, I believe in civil disobedience when rulers falter, especially after considering lawful alternatives in addition to the extent, severity, and immediacy of the injustice. I also believe that we have a Christian duty to speak up to injustice and to seek every opportunity to advocate for the marginalized and rejected. The justice system, whether in America or abroad, has the potential to be the most influential place we can witness to others by loving mercifully and ruling justly. As Christians we fail when we exclude our faith from our application of the law, but we also fail when we try and impose it on others out of a legal mandate.
This post was written by a Center for Global Justice Student Staff member. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect those of Regent University, Regent Law School, or the Center for Global Justice.