A quote many attribute to Ronald Reagan states that the eight most frightening words in the English language are, “I’m from the government and I am here to help.”. With the Iowa Republican primaries just two weeks away, those of us in the Untied States are turning attention to who our next President will be. The people in North Korea are dealing with the sudden death of their leader, Kim Jong Il, and the unknown capabilities of his son and successor, Kim Jong-un. With this in mind, I want to share some observations concerning Christian and government.
I consider myself as a Christian to maintain dual citizenship. Paul reminds us that we are citizens of heaven and of the Kingdom of God’s dear Son (Php 3:20; Col 1:13) and Peter tells his readers that we are sojourners and exiles (1 Pet 2:11 – this is similar to being aliens). As citizens of heaven, we currently find ourselves living in Republics, Democracies, Monarchies, and Dictatorships. Within each of these styles of government there are varying levels of freedom and expectations of its citizens. Our question is, what does the Bible have to say about a Christian’s duty to the earthly government in which he or she lives as a sojourner?
1. Present Yourself as Subject. Consider the following: Rom 13:1, 5, ” . . . Let every person be subject to the governing authorities . . . .One must be in subjection.” and 1 Pet 2:13-14, “Be subject to every human institution . . .”. Paul and Peter write this as they are living under Roman occupation. They did not vote for Caesar, nor would I think they old agree with aloof his policies, yet they both say to be subordinate to those who rule.
2. Pay. Rom 13:6-7, “For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.”. We may not approve of everthing our government does with tax money – I am sure Paul did not approve of Caesar using tax money to persecute Christians and host games while citizens starved for food and education – but we pay taxes. We also owe them the respect the office of President, Governor, Congressman, Senator, King, Queen, or Emperor requires. We do not worship them, but we do give them honor and respect.
3. Pray. 1 Tim 2:1-2, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”. We must pray for our leaders and the leaders of other nations for our physical life and our spiritual life to be good and full of peace.
What other responsibilities do we have to our government?
9 thoughts on “Government and Christians”
It’s a subtle attitude shift, but I no longer consider myself a dual citizen. Despite what my passport says, I’m an alien in this country, a citizen of heaven on diplomatic mission here in this world. I am as much a foreigner in Texas as I am in Albania.
None of that said to disagree with what you’ve written. I merely wanted to point out what I’ve found to be helpful. Knowing that no man can serve two masters, I won’t try to serve two kingdoms. I will do all of the things you mentioned, not as a good citizen, but as a good alien.
I knew you would be one of the first to comment.
What you are saying has an appeal to it, and I think I can agree with you. I have tried to express something similar. We are aliens, but legal aliens. I think that is why I continue to use the term “dual citizenship.” There is one exception to our responsibility to submit to every human institution and that is when doing so would limit or prevent our obedience to God (cf. Acts 5:27-29). Maybe that is why your “alien” idea has so much merit.
Unlike the first century Christians, we have a voice in our government. I would agree with trying to elect “good” men and women. To what extent do you believe we should encourage candidates to pledge certain policy positions? My concern is that a government that has enough authority to prohibit alcohol use (as an example, and it’s been tried and repealed) also has enough authority to prohibit eating unleavened bread (to pick a specific non-issue that might resonate).
The point of the question is, do we elect people who promise to enshrine our preferences in law, or people who will enshrine liberty in law and work to expand it? I believe in part that we have lost our way by taking the easy way out of convincing people things are wrong, and just try to make them illegal.
Evan (is this the Evan I am thinking of?)
Yes and yes. In our current system we do have a voice. We should use that voice to the fullest extent we can without violating laws or putting a “black-eye” on Christ and Christianity (cf. 1 Pet 2:13-15). Likewise, we need to teach what is right and wrong to our children and neighbors. Just making something legal or illegal may make it more difficult for someone to participate in a certain sin, but that DOES NOT remove our responsibility to teach against sin. That teaching must always be priority and not as you say, “taking the easy way out.”
My fear of this easy way of policy and law is multifaceted the chief of which are: 1) Where does the intrusion of government stop? Will we lose all our freedoms including peaceful assembly or freedom of religious practice? 2) More policies and laws mean a larger government and heavier tax burden on tax payers.
Thanks for reading.
Scott, yes it’s the Evan of which you’re thinking.
My concerns about the “easy way of policy and law” echo yours. Your specific example for fear 1 could be expanded to “We have lost freedom of religious expression, but we’ve made it mandatory for everyone to be Christian.” In that event, do we believe that any benefit to Christ or the Church has occurred? I think at that point it should be obvious that the answer is “No”. But, I see an awful lot of people focused on getting the person elected who promises to make it illegal to do something, but doesn’t address the moral reason that thing should not be done.
I think I agree with your statement about using that voice, but I’m cautious because it’s easy to start with “This should be ilegal” when what we really should be saying is “This is WRONG, and you shouldn’t do it because…” As humans we tend to look for the easy way, which would be to let someone else (Gov’t) force people to behave as we believe they should, rather than convince them ourselves to make that choice for themselves.
I think I never really answered your voice question and what we expect of leaders we support / elect. I want them to have godly morals. I do not expect them nor necessarily want them to push a “Christian” agenda on our nation. I do want our leaders to uphold morality that seems to be the foundation of our nation — I am thinking of basics such as the Bill of Rights would include. I do not desire specific laws that regulate every sin or immorality, but laws that protect the innocent (I happen to include the unborn in the category of innocent. People can for the most part choose behavior that limits the number of unwanted pregnancies, there are RARE exceptions) and give us freedom to pursue happiness. (Notice that the statement, “All men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” fits comfortably in my expectations.)
Huzzah! I think we’re in agreement.
I too include the unborn in the “innocent” category (as you might expect). Laws protecting the innocent I can support, but–again–details matter. There is a slippery slope whenever an “authority” begins to define “the innocent”. Also, while this might be an unpopular statement, if we could get agreement that the unborn are “persons”, then there are already laws that would make harm to the unborn just as illegal as harming one’s spouse, children, or perfect strangers.
I’m with you on the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration’s stated principles being defend-able.
I was rather confident that we were in agreement. Just wanted to make sure! I did expect you to have strong feelings toward the unborn. Amy and I thought about you and Anita this fall. If I remembered correctly this would be year 15.
You had it correct. Fifteen is the number.
And yes, it would have been unusual if we had disagreed. The outcome isn’t surprising.