8/5/20 – By Sam McKeen

I was scrolling through my Facebook news feed recently and was distressed to see many contentious politically oriented posts. Especially because some of the posts and mean-spirited comments were from those that claim to be Christians.

I don’t need to tell you that in today’s culture we seem to have lost basic civility. No longer can we have discussions and dialogue with those we don’t agree with and part friends or at least respect the other person. No, instead we vilify and demonize those that disagree with us.

Author and philosopher Os Guinness in observing the deep divisions in our nation believes that America is in its greatest crisis since the Civil War, and perhaps since the American Revolution.

Why are we here? What has happened to cause these deep divides?

One of the major reasons we are where we are today is that people, including many Christians, have elevated the government to the place of God. We have a misplaced reliance on the government. We care more about who is sitting in the oval office than living the life God has called us to live. As Christians we have forgotten that we are citizens of heaven first and citizens of America second.

Perhaps you strongly disagree with what I just said. You are thinking, “I don’t idolize the government or political leaders. I do not worship the government and certainly don’t think that the government is going solve all my problems.”

Let me ask you a few questions:

How much time to you spend reading, watching or listening to political commentary compared to spending time in God’s Word?

How much time to you spend discussing or arguing political issues compared to having spiritual conversations and sharing the Gospel?

How much of your social media activity is related to politics compared to posts and comments that are God glorifying?

If we are honest, we would admit that we worship the government and politics more than we realize. If we took all the time, energy, and attention that we spend in the political arena, and instead invested that in service to our God, what kind of impact could we have in our society? See we can’t be good citizens of America if we are not good citizens of God’s Kingdom first.

In order to help us correct our thinking let’s review what the Bible has to say about God, the government, and citizens.

God established government and gave it authority.

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.

Romans 13:1(ESV)

Romans 13:1 makes it pretty clear that governments are established by God, but exactly what authority and role does the government have? To answer that consider these two passages that speak of earthly rulers:

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.

Romans 13:4(ESV)

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(ESV)

From these passages we can understand that the government is divinely appointed and commissioned to administer justice, punish evil, and encourage goodness among its citizens.

God is the ultimate authority.

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.

Romans 13:1(ESV)

Romans 13:1 also reminds us that God is the ultimate authority. God is sovereign over all rulers and governments. The following two verses affirm this truth:

The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.

Proverbs 21:1(ESV)

He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding;

Daniel 2:21(ESV)

Everyone is to be subject to the governing authorities.

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.

Romans 13:1(ESV)

Romans 13:1 makes it very clear that we are to be submit to the government. Peter also states this in his first epistle.

Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

1 Peter 2:17(ESV)

Keep in mind the emperor that Peter is referencing is Nero. If you know anything about Nero, you know him for his lunacy and persecution of Christians. If Peter is telling the church during the rule of Nero to honor the king, then we do not have any excuse when it comes to honoring our rulers.

Of course, the question that immediately comes to mind is, “What if government forbids what God commands or commands what God forbids?” The simple answer is that when that occurs, Christians have the right to disobey their government.

In Acts 5 we have the account of Peter and the apostles being arrested and imprisoned for teaching about Jesus.

And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.”  But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.”

Acts 5:27-29(ESV)

It is not always simple to determine when the laws of a government actually forbid what God commands or command what God forbids. But the principle of obeying God over obedience to the government remains. It is possible to disobey the government while still obeying the imperative to submit to it. Let me explain.

While we naturally assume that submission and obedience are synonymous, they are not the same thing. You can obey without submitting and you can submit without obeying. Submission is about placing yourself under someone’s authority and oversight. It is not just about your actions, but about your relationship to them.

A great example of submission to the government while disobeying the government is Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

In Daniel 1 they would not eat certain unclean foods.

In Daniel 3 they would not worship a statue.

In Daniel 6 Daniel would not stop praying to God.

Although they disobeyed, they respected the Babylonian leaders who were over them. They submitted to the king’s authority to punish them and put them to death if he saw fit to do so. God blessed them for their courageous choice to honor God above the King.

The reality is that when people ignore God and His truth they increasingly look to the government as the savior. They look to the government to supply their needs. Believers must not fall into this wrong way of thinking. Believers must have the courage to stand firm and remember who their rightful King is. They must remember the one they can trust and depend on. The one who can truly provide their needs.

So, who are you worshipping and putting your trust in? God or the government?

A Christian’s loyalty to the Kingdom of God should trump their loyalty to America. Let’s make God great again! Here is a final word of encouragement.

The one who provides for our deepest needs and brings true peace is not on a ballot. God alone can truly help our nation and the nations of the world.

I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

Psalm 121:1-2(ESV)

This guest post was written by Sam McKeen. Sam serves as the Associate Pastor at Center Barnstead Christian Church.