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Obey God As Ruler Rather Than Men A Biography of Gary Lee Griffith

 The Bible says at Acts 5:29: “In answer Peter and the [other] apostles said: “We must obey God as ruler rather than men.” The apostle Peter gave this answer to the Sanhedrin a judicial court in response to their demand that Christians stop preaching the good news about Jesus Christ. The reason for their firm stand was not to be rebellious to the superior authorities, but only that the Bible teaches God’s laws are higher than man’s, and must be followed and put first in one’s Christian life even if it goes contrary to what man wants or desires you to do, and even though it could mean personal suffering. My father Gary Lee Griffith was such a man. In this biography I hope to relate a special time in my father’s life that has really helped me in my life to be able to stand up for what is right. My information that I will use in reference work will be from the Bible, my mother Linda Griffith, and my own memories of past conversations with my dad.

      To begin this episode of my father’s life let’s start with some history.  my father’s mother Violet Griffith began studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses. Shortly after this my dad and his siblings began a study of the Bible too. Then on July 22, 1953, in Oak Ridge, Tennessee my grandmother, my dad, Uncle Dave, and Uncle Danny were baptized. Following their example my Aunt Carol was baptized on July 24, 1964 in Springfield, Mass. Then Uncle Johnny on October 31, 1964 in Waterbury, Conn. On October 20, 1962, my father married my mother Linda Michelle Nowokunski. Always with a laugh my dad told me my life started shortly after that. They resided in Anderson County, Tennessee. A few months later my father was called up for the draft. He conscientiously objected to go to war not because he wanted to rebel or wanted to demonstrate against the government for going to war, instead his reason was to obey Jehovah God (Psalms 83:18) rather than men.

   Let me explain. While I was being developed in my mother’s womb in the early spring of 1963 my dad was sentence for two years in a federal prison by a Judicial court in Knoxville, Tennessee. It made the headlines in the local papers. The majority of the people did not understand they misinterpreted him a coward. Of course if they had maybe thought about it they might have remembered the way Jesus was treated by the multitude of his day. Yet because of my dad’s study of the Bible, Jesus fine example strengthened him through this trial that he must face. Dad did not forget what Jesus taught his true followers regarding what to give to God and what to give to man. At Matthew 22:21 Jesus says: “Pay back, therefore, Caesar’s things to Caesar, but God’s things to God.” Here, Jesus clearly demonstrated that we must obey secular authorities, but we must also obey God as a higher authority. Jesus while on earth did this perfectly my dad though imperfect did his best to follow his footsteps closely. Dad took the command, “ You must not murder  “ very seriously. Jesus also gave a sign one that would identify his true followers. Dad taught my brother and I that this identifying mark was love. Notice what Jesus said at John 13:34,35: “ I am giving you a new commandment, that YOU love one another; just as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.” Should a Christian try to kill Christian? This happened especially during both world wars, Catholic killing Catholic, Protestant killing Protestant, but never Jehovah’s Witness killing Jehovah’s Witness. In fact Jehovah’s Witnesses did not kill Catholic or Protestant or anyone else during these wars because they truly followed and obeyed the kind of love that Jesus taught. This was the same kind of love my dad practiced, long before the draft ever started.

    My dad served one full year in prison and a year of probation. Though sadden by the things he missed while in prison, such as my mom, my birth, or my first year of life. He was never resentful or sour toward the government he never taught  my brother and I to be flag burners or to protest against the government. Instead he taught us from the Bible to give proper respect and honor to the superior authorities. And although we were taught not to salute/worship the flag, we were never to disrespect it in any way. (History shows that the father of the United States, George Washington felt the same way) Also, my dad said  he was not the only Jehovah’s Witness to take this stand, there were hundreds. They made the best of their circumstance organizing regular religious meetings inside the prisons to build up their faith. They also carried on the preaching work of the good news of God’s Kingdom from cell to cell, since they were unable to go from house to house.(Mathew 24:14) Though persecuted for their faith, they were genuinely happy as Jesus declared at Matthew 5:10  “Happy are those who have been persecuted for righteousness’ sake, since the kingdom of the heavens belongs to them. Dad was no coward. It took strength to stand up firm against the tidal wave of the crowd. And that is exactly what dad always taught us, “The crowd is not always right .“ Yet dad was humble he always gave credit to Jehovah God  for the strength he needed to endure. That is what Jesus did while here on the earth and now does in heaven, giving all glory to his heavenly father Jehovah.

     At my father’s memorial the speaker did not discuss this act of faith. This was at the request of my dad. Instead he wanted a good witness of how God’s Kingdom through Jesus Christ would cleanse the earth making it a paradise to be enjoyed forever by meek people just as Jesus promised at Matthew 5:5: “Happy are the mild-tempered ones, since they will inherit the earth” He wanted his family and friends to go away encouraged to continue worshiping God the way Jesus demonstrated and taught. Dad truly wants to see all whom he loved and cherished in paradise when he is awakened from death! Then at that time I will be able to tell dad how much his example meant to me. I will be able to thank him for helping me fill out my draft card (As registration was considered in 1981.) and showing me where to write  “conscientious objector”. (In fact to  make sure of himself, he went and asked the Post Master) Because of his Scriptural training, I too am equipped to help my children to put God in the proper place in their  lives. As Acts 5:29 says: “ In answer Peter and the [other] apostles  said: “We must obey God as ruler rather than men.”


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