Tonight the President of the United States is slated to give his annual State of The Union Address. I’m not sure which one will be more fun to watch; his speech or the bantering on Face Book that will follow. When it comes to dialogue on politics, it’s interesting to see all the Christ following friends I have who sit on opposite sides of the political aisle. They claim allegiance to Christ, but are polls apart in politics. But that will be part of our discussion next week when we wind this subject down and look at some of the personal reasons why I don’t swim in this pool much anymore. It is also worth noting that Jesus actually spoke very little about politics even though Conservatives and Liberals claim Him as their guy at times. In fact, we see virtually nothing of Jesus giving a commentary on the Roman government of his day. That’s because the mission of Christ is beyond that of any temporal regime. Yet we noted in Part I. that as citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven we’re not to cloister ourselves away from society, but rather to influence it. So what does the Bible say about our relationship to the Kingdoms of this world? Here are some pointers we should consider and while my list below is not exhaustive, it’s something to start with.
1. We should Understand the God ordained Role for Government.
Romans 13:1-7 is a great jumping off point to start with and it makes at least two major points. The first one is simply that it is God who sets up governments and deposes them. Even at his trial before Pilate, Jesus let the governor know that he would have no power over him if it were not given to him from above. The second observation is that the reason for government is one of maintaining order. The best illustration of this would be our local traffic laws. With no system of traffic lights dictating who goes first, we would have chaos in the streets. The rub at times though is in defining what “maintaining order” actually looks like. The more liberal interpretation would mean that the government is to provide for our needs and thus ensure tranquility. The more conservative understanding is one of the authorities merely keeping the bad guys off the streets and basically leaving the law abiding citizens alone.
2. We are to Submit to the Governments placed over us.
Again referring back to Romans 13, Paul clearly states that we are not to rebel against the government. Likewise the apostle Peter noted that we are to submit ourselves to human authorities. Jesus himself taught that we are to pay taxes when mandated and to “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” The only exception that we see to this command is in situations where the government calls upon us to live in such a way that is directly opposed to God and his Word. One such example of that is found in Acts chapter 4 where Peter and John refused the Sanhedrin’s demand that they cease preaching in the name of Christ.
3. We are to Pray for those in Government.
Writing to the young evangelist, Timothy, the apostle Paul urged him and the first Christ followers to pray for “Kings and all those in authority.” The point of this exhortation is not that the authorities would see things our way, but rather that we might find in our society the ability to live “peaceful and quiet lives.” It occurred to me a number of years ago that by living in such a community it is much easier to proclaim Christ than when living in seasons of chaos. Another reason for these prayers is that while we may not always like those in government over us, God still extends grace to them just like he does to us. Christ also told us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.
4. We are free to Participate and be a Responsible.
For me and most of our readers, being born in America or other Democratic countries offers us the unique opportunity to have a say on how our government is run. That is a luxury not found in every nation on the earth today. As noted in Part I. of this series, some people are actually called by God to be public servants. If that be the case, then they are to work at it with all their hearts and struggle with maintaining the right motives. Paul challenged the Colossian Christians to work at whatever they do “with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters”
5. We have to Remember that Politics are not the Ultimate Answer.
A huge debate these days is the option of a government mandated medical program which some support and others fear. But the real root of this issue is simple greed and not law. I did something I haven’t done in a long time; I made a doctor’s appointment today for later on in the week. In setting this thing up the woman on the other end of the line never asked me why I wanted to come in, but she sure wanted to know who my insurance company was. It all came down to money and that’s an issue that no law can change. The deeper issues facing the United States or any country cannot be solved by politics no matter how good they are. The answer is found only in a changed heart which is why Jesus came. When people are transformed on the inside, they naturally begin to do what is good whether there is a law mandating right action or not. That’s where the ultimate answer rests. Yes, it is still the love of Jesus Christ that will change a life and a nation.
What else would you add?
Some good things to chew on there Dave. Authority seems to be a key word here: whose authority will we surrender to? The authority of God, or ourselves and thus the best government we can create by ourselves? If there is no God, then it is “might makes right” and the political regime with the most cash and power wins. If there really is a God, then we can no longer form Him into our image, but have to take the step of faith and submit to Him trusting in His final goodness. As citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, we submit to the local laws which allows order in this realm, but ultimately, our submission and trust is in God who higher and beyond this worldly system.
Now, here’s a subject that can start fist fights! What is it they say? Never talk politics or religion and here we are doing both. First of all, Steve, great study. I guess the main thought that I would add is the question as to how we should respond in a world that is leaving God for another idol which is called government.
Humans will put their faith in something. If there is no God to depend on in my philosophy, then I put my faith in myself. In such a world, government is how I (we) impose my (our) godhead on the world. That is what we are seeing today from many on “both sides of the aisle”.
We see our salvation in the hands of a government whose task is to right all wrongs, take care of us from cradle to grave, and save us from ourselves. In return, we give to the government. In short, many in this country are making an idol of our government.
Instead our faith and salvation is in Jesus Christ. We live for him and seek to serve him. Government is just a tool that God ordains so that order in society might be kept and evil held in check.
Government is run by imperfect people and is very fallible. Thus, as good citizens we obey our government in all matters where they don’t conflict with the will of God. We are accountable to God and government is accountable to us. As we as a society flee God we substitute a blinded faith in our government.
In an increasingly chaotic world, in which god will you put your faith? In the eternal, righteous, Lord God or the government of corruptible man? As good christians, we are to be good citizens. We do not check our faith at the door as some would have us do, but engage in the world as Christly examples to others and holding our government to account.