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Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Theology Tuesday - Christ and the Government

And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's. And they marvelled at him.
The Gospel of St. Mark, Chapter 12, Verse 17

There are many who would claim that God is on their side - whether it is a war, a political race, or a football game. However, when it comes to politics and the conduct of government, no one has the copyright.

Why is that? Is it because no one gets it right? No, although I would agree with that statement alone. God is not a Republican, nor a Democrat, nor even a Libertarian.

In fact, I even go this far - Jesus Christ had almost nothing to say about how a government should be run, and the remainder of the New Testament added little about this subject.

There are three principle things that Christ and the New Testament say about the government:

1a) Pay your taxes and serve when called. See Mark 12:17 above.

1b) Obey the authorities (when not in conflict with the commands of Christ).
"Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour."
- Romans 13:1-7

"Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God: And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ. But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons."
- Colossians 3:22

"Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work"
- Titus 3:1

"Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God. Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king."
- 1 Peter 2:13-17.

2) God has given the government the power it has for his purposes:

"Then saith Pilate unto him, Speakest thou not unto me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee? Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin."
- St. John 19:10-11

- Romans 13:1-7 (above)

3) Governments will persecute Christians and be primary agents of corruption and evil because man abuses this power:
"But take heed to yourselves: for they shall deliver you up to councils; and in the synagogues ye shall be beaten: and ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them."
- St. Mark 13:9

"For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."
- Ephesians 6:12

"But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you."
- St. Matthew 10:17-20

The message of the Gospel is for the individual man and the church - not for governments, corporations, or social groups. Each individual within that group is responsible for his actions, and leaders are responsible for the actions of their charges. However, what is surely unreasonable is to call a political party or country "Christian" and to judge its actions on the commands of Christ - when He Himself does no such thing.

4 Comments:

  • I wholly agree!

    I come down on the side of God’s sovereignty, in that He claims responsibility for ALL rulers…even those that are “freely” elected. This may seem to conflict with my “libertarian” philosophy, but I tend to segregate the theoretical from the mystical, some how.

    By Blogger Robert, at 3/30/2005 01:06:00 AM  

  • Hammer!!!

    How appropriate...

    By Blogger David Hunley, at 3/30/2005 06:41:00 AM  

  • We're also commanded to pray for our governmental leaders.

    Another element that I think is relevant is that we're expected to make godly decisions with the talent or sphere of influence that we're given. [The talents in the parable can't be abilities, because the people in the parable are given talents according to their ability. So the money must be symbolic of something other than ability. The most likely thing is some broader sense of resources or spheres for use of abilities.] Given that we are technically part of the government in a democratic system, God expects us to make wise decisions in using that power. There's no place in the NT that commands us to vote or to vote wisely, but this is how I think it can be determined by things that are in there.

    Another element is that God is sovereign over nations, including evil nations. It's clearer in the OT (e.g. Isaiah 10 or throughout Daniel), but it's there in how the Jewish and Roman authorities did evil things yet were fulfilling God's plan unwittingly. This is clear in the speeches of Peter in Acts 2 and Acts 4.

    By Blogger Jeremy Pierce, at 4/02/2005 11:06:00 AM  

  • All true, Jeremy. I skipped those because I thought htey were more 'minor' points, though still important. Thanks for stopping in!

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 4/03/2005 11:25:00 PM  

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