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Ne'er the Twain Shall Meet?

You know what they say, don’t you? Don’t discuss religion and politics in mixed company. You’re sure to offend someone, right?

Well, what if that mixed company is the internet? If you’re a blogger like myself, you’re sure to offend someone with almost any kind of opinion on anything related to politics or religion.

The Bible is clear that God has placed people in leadership and authority over us:

1Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. 4For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. 6This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. – Romans 13:1-7

It’s also clear that I, as a Christian, am to be submissive to government. That doesn’t mean that I must obey unjust laws, for my ultimate authority is God and I’ll follow Him every time if the government says I should do the opposite. However, what am I to do if I simply disagree with government? Am I still to obey?  The answer is a resounding yes. However, that doesn’t require me to check my opinion or respectful dissent at the door. It also doesn’t mean that I cannot express a strong opinion at times as some seem to think. On that note, even John the Baptist, whom Jesus had an extremely high opnion of (Matthew 11:11), had some fairly terse things to say about governing authorities in his day, which resulted in his imprisonment and eventual beheading by Herod Antipas (Matthew 14:1-12).

Even Jesus himself had some pretty strong things to say about those in a position of authority during his time. He called some of the religious leaders of the day “vipers”. Granted, these religious leaders weren’t technically government, however they did hold positions of authority over the people. Heck, the Sanhedrin had the authority to capture, detain, and deliver Jesus to the Roman authorities in their day.

My point is this, as poorly as I’ve probably made the case thus far, so forgive my poor use of words…Submitting to governmental authority and respectfully disagreeing and voicing our opinions are not mutually exclusive. I believe we must avoid characterizing government officials as “criminals”, “liars”, “cancer”, etc. Obviously, if a sitting elected official is caught in criminal activity, that’s a different story. However, some have taken it too far in recent years, calling our former President Bush similar names as those mentioned above and the same has been done against President Obama.

I’d like to close with the following excerpt from an excellent article on “The Christian and Civil Government“:

What does our conscience have to do with submission to human government? Mere outward compliance with the requirements of government is simply not enough. This we can expect from unbelievers, if for no other reason than the fear of punishment. But God desires a fuller, deeper, obedience from the heart. This requires conscientious subjection—submitting done out of obedience to God. Such an attitude of submission enables us to retain the right attitude and actions toward government even when we must disobey specific laws in order to obey God.

An internal attitude of submission stimulates us to obey government even when our disobedience cannot be seen or punished. The actions of verses 6 and 7 are the outflow of an undefiled conscience and a spirit of submission. Paul does not tell us here to “obey the laws of the land,” but rather to honor those in authority and to pay taxes and custom fees. Why are these specific forms of obedience named? I believe it is because these are the very things which are easiest to avoid doing, and the least likely violations to be discerned and punished.

We can be rude and disrespectful to officials and get away with it. We can even more effectively pretend to be respectful and never have our insincerity detected. We can quite easily report our income or our baggage in such a way as to avoid income taxes or customs fees. More often than not, if we are devious, we will not be caught.

But we already know that government has God’s authority and ministers for Him. Thus, when we fail to “pay our dues,” whatever these might be, we disobey God. Even if the civil authorities never catch us, our conscience before God will be defiled. Our fellowship with Him will be hindered. Our service to others will be adversely affected. And so we must live by the higher standard. We must not only comply with the demands of government, we must cooperate in spirit. In so doing our conscience will be clear, our testimony untainted, and our service unhindered by sin and guilt. Living in subordination to divinely ordained government is beneficial to our walk with God and our service to others.

Finally, these things which God requires us to give government officials are those things which facilitate the ministry of public officials. Both honor and money are necessary for public officials to carry out their tasks. Our subordination to those in authority not only means that we should do what we are required, but that we should provide all that is necessary so that our superiors can do their jobs. Our submission means that we serve and support them.


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