A democracy can be a perplexing animal, at least for a Christian. On one hand, we, The People, are in charge, so when something goes wrong, the buck ought to stop with us, at least to some degree.
Practically speaking, of course, The People aren’t in charge; the politicians are. But that being the case, isn’t our government just like a kingdom or a Pharaoh-dom or a Caesar-dom, subject to the same principles Scripture lays out for believers in an autocratic system? Principles like these: Be subject to your rulers. Pay your taxes. Honor those due honor. Don’t resist authority or you’re in opposition to God’s ordinance. Fear authority only if you’re doing wrong.
The overriding truth is this: “There is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God” (Romans 13:1b).
So God establishes our President, by means of we, The People. We are responsible and therefore should do our best to bring the best into the office — into all the governmental offices, in fact, since we have a three-branch form of government. What good is it to have a strong, godly President if we don’t have a legislative branch that will work with him? And what use is it to have a Congress that passes good laws if we have a court system that overturns them?
But ultimately, God is working through this system of ours and will sovereignly oversee the process so that the “right” leader is in place. This is a hard truth. Hitler was “right”? Chairman Mao? Stalin? Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is “right”?
I’m sure the Christians who received Paul’s letter to the Romans were asking the same question. Excuse me, Paul, have you heard the latest about the Caesar and his household? Do you know what he’s planning for us followers of Jesus? And you are telling us, God has put this guy in place and we are to subject ourselves to him?
Actually, Paul said there was more than simply subjecting ourselves. He said, Bless those who persecute you; never pay back evil for evil; do not take revenge; overcome evil with good; so far as it is possible for you, be at peace with those in authority over you (since they are part of the “all men” Paul names).
Peter expands this same principle and its corollaries in his first letter to believers “who reside as aliens” scattering throughout various regions of the Middle East.
Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God. Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king. (1 Peter 2:13-17 – emphases mine)
Nowhere do I see that our treatment of the authorities over us is conditional — we are to honor them, only if we agree or only if they are abiding by God’s law. Rather, Peter’s instructions were to those who had no friends in high places. These Christians were looked at as kooks, at best, and as enemies at worst. Paul was giving direction to believers who faced increasing persecution of a hostile and immoral government.
Bless, don’t curse. Make peace if they’ll let you, give them honor, obey, be subject to them. Why? Because God put them in place. By treating these authorities properly, you’re obeying God and cutting the legs out from under the criticisms leveled at you.
What timely words for the Christian today. How should we do politics? “Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.” (Rom. 13:7) I take that verse to include fulfilling our responsibility to vote, but that might just be me. One thing I do know, speaking about our President with disrespect is sinful, and by doing so, Christians are giving those opposed to Christ ammunition for their attacks against us.
In short, then, we should do politics the same way we should do all of life: by obeying the dictates of Scripture.
We also would be wise to do so with a healthy dose of thanksgiving for the privilege of living in a country where we can voice our opinion and not fear being thrown in jail because of it. We can moan and groan about the direction our country is going, but we ought to be thankful it hasn’t gone there yet; we ought to pray God brings revival instead.
Actually this post is identical to the one I wrote in 2012, but since I still believe it is true, I just changed the title to make it current. 😉