The election of 2020 has been one of the most contentious in history. We know that other elections have been contentious as well – when Abraham Lincoln was elected president, it soon led to a “civil war” in this country. So, as the Ecclesiastes writer shares with us in Ecclesiastes 1:9, “there is nothing new under the sun.”
The question all Christians must face – how will I react to what is going on in this country? Will I defend the party that I voted for to the point that it may cause division in the church? Will I strive to be a good citizen regardless of who is in office?
The New Testament speaks to Christians about how we should react to the government. Please read and ponder the following passages carefully, remembering that we are commanded by God to do these things.
In Romans 13:1-7 Paul wrote, “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.”
Notice some obvious commands that are binding on all Christians.
- We must be subject to the governing authorities. It doesn’t matter what political party they represent. As Paul wrote these words, the world had no choice as to who the leader would be. There was no voting for Emperor; nor was their voting for the Roman senate.
- We find examples in the Old Testament and New Testament wherein God’s people suffered at the hands of kings and those in authority. We see Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego carried to a far country and becoming part of the Babylonian government. We see that Jesus died at the hands of the Jewish authorities as well as the Roman authorities – and we know he had done nothing worthy of death (John 18:28-38). We see Paul submitting to death at the hand of Nero as well (2 Timothy 4).
- We find that authorities exist because God appoints them. Even though I vote, if God wants someone else in the office, I cannot argue against that. Hence, even if we did not vote for a particular man as president, we must still submit.
- We cannot resist the authority – even if we do not like him or her. God plans that the government punish the evildoer, and resisting the authority leads to punishment.
- When we resist, we bring judgment on ourselves.
- The purpose of government is to punish evildoers and keep peace. However, as in the cases cited above, we also know that sometimes Christians and godly men are punished because the world has turned against them for the stand they make for God.
- Paul makes it clear that Christians must be subject to authorities, not because we may be punished, but because our conscience tells us we must because we are servants of God first.
- We have to pay taxes, even though they may be onerous and burdensome.
- Governmental authorities are also God’s ministers in keeping the peace, and we must help pay for their upkeep.
- We honor and respect those in authority because they are in authority. Hence, while we may disagree with what is being done, we must honor those who make the law as well as those who enforce the law.
Peter also had some things to say about Christian’s response to the government. Notice 1 Peter 2:11-17. “Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.
Therefore, submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men— as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.
- Christians must remember that we are sojourners here on this earth, and we seek to finally go to be with God! It is ironic that we sing “THIS WORLD IS NOT MY HOME” yet we get mighty comfortable here.
- There is the reminder that we are not here to indulge our fleshly lusts but live lives that bring honor to God in the world. Non-Christians condemned the Christians of the first century, we should live to be so different that they condemn us by their standards today as well. May we so live that they glorify God for the lives we lived when he comes again.
- We are to submit to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake. The only reason we do not obey is when a government makes laws that are contrary to the will of God! If Christianity was outlawed tomorrow, we would still serve the Lord because he comes first – let the government do what it may. We may have to go underground; we may have to give our lives – what will we do? (Daniel 3).
- As Paul in Romans 13, Peter also informs Christians as to the function of government – to punish evildoers and praise those who do good. Often I see the punishment of evildoers, but I do not hear governmental authorities praise those who are doing good.
- Again, Peter stresses that we silence the ignorant by the lives we lead. THE STRESS IS THAT CHRISTIANS LIVE SO THAT WE POINT PEOPLE TO GOD!
- We must honor all people – realizing that all have an immortal soul. Yes, even the ones with whom we disagree.
- We must love the brotherhood – indeed!
- We fear God by doing what he says.
- We honor the king – the ones in authority.
Beloved, these are commands by God that we must obey. We all have a lot of feelings about this election, BUT WE MUST REMEMBER THAT WE ARE GOD’S SERVANTS FIRST! PRAY FOR OUR COUNTRY! ABOVE ALL PRAY THAT THE CHURCH BECOMES WHAT GOD WANTS HER TO BE! That, brothers and sisters, depends on us!