A flurry of violent protests in major cities across the country erupted due to President-elect Donald Trump’s recent victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election. Labeled as a historic and contentious election, the recent controversy surrounding these two presidential candidates leads us to consider the relationship between Christians and government.
What is the origin of government?
Government exists because God created and instituted it. Romans 13:1 says, “For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” The apostle Paul further states that God appointed the governing authorities (Romans 13:2), again establishing its divine origin.
Why did God create government?
The purpose of government is to ensure the protection of civilization, “for rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad” (Romans 13:3). This is why Paul previously warns that those who resist authorities will “incur judgment” (v.2). The government, or ruler described in Romans 13, is the servant of God for the good of the people who “carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer” (Romans 13:4).
What is a Christian’s responsibility to government?
Called to Submission
A Christian is called to “be in subjection to government.” Romans 13:5 says, “Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.” The reason for this submission originates from government’s divine origin. If every authority is instituted by the creator, then submitting to government is submitting to God himself. In contrast, refusing to submit to the government brings God’s wrath wielded through the rulers and governing authorities (Romans 13:5). To Christians in Crete, Paul tells Titus to “remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work,” (Titus 3:1). Furthermore, Peter emphasizes the will of God (1 Peter 2:15) is that Christians “be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good” (1 Peter 2:13-14).
Called to Pay Taxes
A Christian is also called to pay taxes to the government. Romans 13:7 says, “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.” In addition, Jesus answered a question concerning the lawfulness of paying tribute to the government saying “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Luke 20:25). Christians should not withhold taxes where taxes are due, recognizing their treasure is in heaven, and not on this earth.
Called to Pray For and Honor the Government
It is good and pleasing in the sight of God for Christians to pray “for kings and all who are in high positions” (1 Timothy 2:1-3). Christians are also called to honor and respect “everyone” including “the emperor” and the governors sent by him (1 Peter 2:13-17). Part of Paul’s reminder to the Crete Christians regarding their submission to governing authorities includes the charge, “to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people” (Titus 3:2). Honoring your government includes not speaking evil of it, avoiding quarreling, and showing courtesy towards all people.
Is a Christian allowed to disobey the government?
The only acceptable act of disobedience towards the government emerges when Christians are commanded to do something directly against God’s law. Peter and the apostles stood before the local magistrates charged with disobeying a direct order not to teach in the name of Christ. They replied, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). When the government compels Christians to sin, or there is no legal recourse for fighting injustice, then and only then is civil disobedience acceptable.
What if our government does not submit to God?
Christians are called to submit and obey the government regardless of the obedience or even propagation of biblical principles by the governing authorities(Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-17). The Holy Spirit inspired the apostles to record principles of submission to governing authorities within the context of a corrupt and godless Roman government. Therefore, regardless of the governing authorities, Christians are called to submit, pay taxes, pray and honor their government.
Why does God allow godless governments to exist?
We must remember that God “removes kings and sets up kings” (Daniel 2:21). He is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, and we should trust Him regardless of the kings he removes and sets up. We must remember that “the king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord, he turns it wherever he will” (Proverbs 21:1). Ultimately, our hope should not be found in our government because Jesus said “my kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:26). Christians are citizens in heaven (Philippians 3:20) and should not fight or quarrel with ruling governments of the earth. God is the blessed and only Sovereign (1 Timothy 6:15) who is the King of kings and Lord of lords, and Christians rejoice with the prophet Daniel knowing that “the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed” and will last forever (Daniel 2:44).