I'm Just Following Orders
Good News Magazine
December 1973
Volume: Vol XXII, No. 5
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I'm Just Following Orders
Gary L Alexander  

   WASHINGTON, D.C., 1973. Squirming before a Select Senate subcommittee, dozens of men of unimpeachable loyalty to President Nixon are found guilty of "zeal in a righteous cause" following the break-in and cover-up of the Democratic headquarters at Watergate. Multiple other high-level appointive officials compromised ethics in favor of loyalty to their boss.

   Ft. Benning, Georgia, 1969. Lt. William Calley claimed he was "just following orders" after his company wiped out over 100 defenseless women, children, and elderly citizens of My Lai, South Vietnam. Those under Lt. Calley also claimed they "just followed orders," putting obedience to authority over their personal standards of morality.
   Washington, D.C., 1953. Senator Joseph McCarthy cross-examined hundreds of prominent Americans for their alleged sympathies with Communism. The careers of the witnesses were effectively terminated, as McCarthy's "zeal in a righteous cause" ruined many ethical men.
   Nuremburg, Germany, 1946. A dozen leading Nazi officials were sentenced to death or imprisonment for "just following orders," while hundreds of other "loyal" Nazi leaders escaped to exile or to be captured later (such as Adolf Eichmann). Their unanimous reply: "We had to obey orders — you have not seen the Fuhrer in his anger! We must obey him."
   Salem, Massachusetts, 1692. Nineteen "witches" were hanged and one was pressed to death. However, over 100 alleged "witches" saved their skin by signing a confession and proclaiming their loyalty to the church.
   London, 1520. Utopian philosopher Sir Thomas More was executed for putting personal ethics before the throne of England. Athens, 399 B. C. Greek teacher Socrates was executed for putting his loyalty to ethics before his loyalty to Greece. Jerusalem, 31 A.D. Jesus Christ was crucified for putting God before man's government.
   Similar examples could be listed indefinitely, but the one common denominator in all these conflicts is the eternal war between freedom and authority, between God and Mammon, or between loyalty and ethics. "Loyalty" here means an unswerving devotion to a man, an organization, or a cause. "Ethics," in its proper Christian definition, means loyalty to God, His laws and His morality.
   The Apostle Peter put this conflict in bold relief when he appeared before the council in Jerusalem. The high priest, the captain of the Temple, and the chief priests continually arrested Peter and his fellow apostles for insubordination, saying: "Did we not straitly command you that ye should not teach in this [Jesus'] name? and, behold, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man's blood upon us" (Acts 5:28).
   "Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, WE OUGHT TO OBEY GOD RATHER THAN MEN" (verse 29). Ah! There's the rub. Peter and the high priest were two different religious leaders who each believed in a different God. One of them, however, happened to be in power enough to inflict his own interpretation upon the other. It would be easy to compromise, but Peter courageously put God before man.
   [Author's note: Of course, everyone should respect constituted governmental authority as Peter himself did (I Pet. 2:13-17). Many times it is not in conflict with God's law. Read our free article entitled "The Christian Attitude - Respect Government Authority."]
   After countless hundreds of such moral conflicts — from Adam to Watergate — you would think mankind might learn the lesson that it doesn't pay to be so "sincere" in the wrong cause. There is always a day of reckoning. For some, that day of reckoning is the hot seat of a Senate investigating committee. For true Christians "the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God..." (I Pet. 4:17). For others, there is this:

The White Throne Judgment

   "And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened... and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works" (Rev. 20:12). This time is called the White Throne Judgment (verse 11); it is a time when every human being who has ever lived will be resurrected to life. Over a certain period of time, each man will have a chance to answer for his actions, repent before God and live a new way of life. Contrary to some pagan "Christian" traditions, this has nothing to do with going to heaven or hell, but is rather a "first chance" for billions of people who never heard and understood Christ's message.
   In that day of judgment, there will be no controversy about who said what, at which meeting, or what day, to whom, where, why, and how. God will judiciously use the "tapes" of what everyone has said: "But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment" (Matt. 12:36).
   This by no means pictures God as some "hanging judge" in heaven, waiting for the slightest slip of the tongue so He can damn a man for all time. God will forgive any and all sins upon repentance. But these scriptures are telling His followers, who know better, that they dare not make a practice of breaking His laws in secret. If they do, God reserves the right to "play back the tapes" and ask for an accounting.
   The lesson for you and me is simple: Obey God's standard of behavior, follow God's ethical and moral principles as revealed in the Bible. Then, and only then, we need fear no "Watergate" witch hunt, either on earth before a just judge, or at the resurrection before a just God.
   This assurance does not necessarily mean that Christians will live a serene and tranquil life between now and the year 2000. "All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (II Tim. 3:12). And, "... We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22). This does not refer to religious arguments and antagonistic literature alone. Jesus Christ foretold the time when professing Christians would kill true Christians. "Yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service" (John 16:2). In other words, righteous men will be slain for being "disloyal" to their church or nation.
   Daniel was nearly put to death for merely continuing in prayer toward God (Dan. 6). Jeremiah was accused of treason (Jer. 38:4), imprisoned in a slime pit, and nearly executed. God's prophets have always suffered persecution and privation for not being "loyal" to a nation's or church's corrupt leadership.
   "In the long run we are all dead," quipped economist John M. Keynes. But in a much longer run we will all live again! It is our moral standing at that "point in time" (as Watergate witnesses say) that will determine our eternal fate. Is your loyalty directed toward God and the Bible? Or will you stand accused of being loyal to the wrong cause?

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Good News MagazineDecember 1973Vol XXII, No. 5