“Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished. For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. Would you like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will honor you. The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good. But if you are doing wrong, of course you should be afraid, for they have the power to punish you. They are God’s servants, sent for the very purpose of punishing those who do what is wrong. So you must submit to them, not only to avoid punishment, but also to keep a clear conscience. Pay your taxes, too, for these same reasons. For government workers need to be paid. They are serving God in what they do. Give to everyone what you owe them: Pay your taxes and government fees to those who collect them, and give respect and honor to those who are in authority.” Romans 13:1-7; NLT
I know I’ve talked about this before, and I know that I’ll talk about this again and again. It’s something that weighs heavily on my heart, especially when it comes around to major decisions made in the United States and other countries that significantly impact people of faith, particularly, Christians.
I know that we want to change the world. I know that we should do everything in our power to make the world a better place. And I know that we live in a world where we need to go through a bunch of red tape and political and bureaucratic lines in order to make any type of significant, lasting impact on the world.
Or do we?
I want us to think about something that should be noted right out of the New Testament: neither Jesus, our Lord and Savior, nor the apostle Paul, or any of the other apostles for that matter, asked their governments to change in order to fit their worldview and to help them make any type of lasting change.
Let’s look at Jesus. During His entire earthly ministry, Jesus was, truthfully, against the established governments, both the Jewish High Council (Sanhedrin) and the occupying Romans. Now, I’m not saying Jesus preached rebellion and insurrection, but rather that the He knew that there was no sense in trying to get the governments to change their ways in order to spread His message. All Jesus did was love on everyone that came to Him and taught them. That’s it. When asked about how to handle the government, particularly paying taxes to Caesar, and even the temple tax, Jesus’ replies were simple. When it came to paying taxes to Caesar, He made it clear that it is proper to give to Caesar what was Caesar’s (i.e. the money with his image on it) and give to God what is God’s (aka our lives, since we are made in God’s image) (Mark 12:17).
Not once in Jesus’ ministry did He go to Caiphas or Pilate and say “Hey, I’m trying to make sure the orphans and widows get fed and cared for. Can you help Me out with that?” or “Listen, we have a lot of homeless people in Jerusalem. Do you think you guys could partner with Me to build some shelters for them?” While yes, they are important, don’t mishear me here, we need to remember that Jesus never once turned to the government for help.
Neither did Paul, for that matter. As I hope we all know, Paul spent a decent amount of time in prison for being a Christian. His teachings, his lifestyle, the way he helped and cared for people regardless of what Roman law said, all caused Paul’s imprisonment.
And, when Christianity was on the rise, Rome feared they may overthrow them. They saw all these people flocking to the Christians and seeing how the Christians cared for those that Rome neglected. They saw this change and feared revolution. Their response? Out love the Christians. Seriously.
Rome’s response to the Christians loving on everyone was to out love them. Do more. Feed more hungry. House more homeless. Care for more sick. Do more than the Christians are doing. Let’s win them back!
I guess, all in all, what I’m trying to say here is that we shouldn’t be trying to get the government to enforce our religious ideals on the people, whether it’s same-sex marriage or publicly displaying the 10 Commandments on public, state property.
Instead, we should be doing all we can to just live and love like Jesus. Do we have to follow the laws of the nations we live in? Yes. It’s biblical (Romans 13:1-7). However, we should be careful that our obedience to our nation’s laws does not cause us to compromise our religious and biblical convictions. Be wise in choosing civil disobedience as a result of your convictions.
Be willing to go to jail, even die, for the sake of the kingdom of Christ.
Be blessed, my friends.