Sunday, October 23, 2016

Christianity, Politics and Government - Part 2

by Tony Thomas

The election of 2016 is one of the most tumultuous of all time. Tempers are red hot. Polarization is the norm. Even heated debates are going on between Christians as to which candidate deserves our vote. However, no matter who wins the upcoming election, Christians have the duty and responsibility to both honor and submit to the authority of our new President.

The Apostle Paul writes in Romans:

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 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. (Romans 13:1-7 ESV)

The Apostle Peter provided a similar message:

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. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. (1 Peter 2:13-17 ESV)

These scriptures give Christians zero “wiggle room”. All authorities that exist have been instituted by God as His servants to punish evildoers and to maintain order. If you resist them, you will incur judgment. We are to fear God and honor our leaders. It is that simple. The only exception is, if the authorities force you to do something that is contrary to God’s Word, you have the right (and the obligation) to disobey them and suffer the consequences. (Acts 4:18-21)

Paul wrote the book of Romans circa 56-57 and Nero was on the throne. Nero was one of the most diabolical Caesars who ever lived and he blamed the Christians for burning Rome and came up with terrible punishments for them. The Roman historian, Tacitus, wrote:

“...Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired. Nero offered his gardens for the spectacle, and was exhibiting a show in the circus, while he mingled with the people in the dress of a charioteer or stood aloft on a car. Hence, even for criminals who deserved extreme and exemplary punishment, there arose a feeling of compassion; for it was not, as it seemed, for the public good, but to glut one man's cruelty, that they were being destroyed.”

You will notice that Paul demanded Christians to honor and to submit to the authority of an evil and sadistic emperor. We are to do the same, no matter how evil the leader is or how much we may dislike him or her. If we do otherwise, we will bring reproach upon Christ and His church. For Jesus told us to love even our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44-45).

I sincerely believe a time of trial and testing is imminent for all followers of Christ. Yet, we must continue to realize that God is on the throne and He alone is Lord of all.
And we should remember Paul’s words from Romans 8:

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31-39 ESV)

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