- PART 1 introduced the topic.
- PART 2 examined this question: How do we know when those who claim authority over us as our governmental leaders have been appointed by God?
- PART 3 asked: What is the difference between the obedience we owe to the governing authorities and the obedience we owe to God?
- PART 4 considered the matter of priorities: How high a priority should a Christian give his role as a citizen of a constitutional republic?
The fact we know something is important doesn’t tell us what to do about it. That’s the issue here.
What is the role of a Christian in a constitutional republic?
I doubt I can formulate an answer that will satisfy everyone, to say the least. Fortunately, the job has already been done better than I can do it. Consider these words from the Declaration of Independence.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. –That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
Some say the United States is not a Christian nation, but it most certainly has a Christian heritage. Because our Father in Heaven commands us to love each other, a substantial number of the people of the 13 colonies believed government exists to protect our Rights. Yet because God appoints our government officials, they were reluctant to rebel. Hence, before they chose to rebel against the crown, the representatives of the 13 colonies wrestled with their consciences. Did they have sufficient cause?
What constitutes sufficient cause to oppose and resist the government? Lon Solomon gave a sermon some years back that is relevant to this post, Government and the Christian (sowhatradio.com). Solomon (the pastor) preached on 1 Samuel 24. Here the Bible tells how David spared the life of King Saul. Why? Here is what he told his men.
1 Samuel 24:6 New King James Version (NKJV)
6 And he said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, to stretch out my hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the Lord.”
As Christians we each have a duty to protect each others Rights. Because the government has such an important role in doing just that, we should not seek to overthrow our government casually. An unstable government cannot even protect itself. In fact, if the government is largely serving its purpose, we have an obligation to help protect it.
Just how serious is our role as Christians in supporting good government? Consider criteria the Bible gives us for opposing and resisting a bad government. Based upon what Bible says, Solomon observed that there are three times when Christians may oppose and resist their government.
- When our leaders violate the law. Government exists for the promotion of justice. When leaders start breaking the law — behaving unjustly — those leaders are not promoting justice.
- When our government violates human rights. Government exists to protect our Rights. When government starts committing genocide, enslaving people, driving them off their land, stripping them of their right to practice their religion, that government fails to justify its existence.
- When our government prohibits preaching the Gospel.
When our leaders violate the law
When we look at our leaders in Washington D. C., whether we are Democrats, Independents, or Republicans, we all have cause to roll our eyes. Our news media, because it is so partisan, is not much help, but we call Washington D. C. the Swamp because we have little doubt it is filled with corruption.
Unlike the absolute monarchs of ancient times, we have some hope of bringing a lawless leader into a court of justice. In Biblical times, however, the people had little power. Mostly the Bible speaks of prophets who confronted those in authority, and many of them died. What the prophets worried about was God’s law. However, God’s law includes prohibitions against murder, stealing, and lying and the like. Here are some examples.
- Samuel confront King Saul with his disobedience to God (1 Samuel 13:1-15).
- Nathan confronted King David with murder and adultery (2 Samuel 12:1-15).
- Elijah confronted King Ahab with murder (1 Kings 21).
- John the Baptist confronted King Herod with an illegal marriage (Matthew 14:1-12).
When our government violates human rights
Since Atheists seem to enjoy pointing out that the God of the Bible supposedly committed genocide, I guess this section will spawn some guffaws. What the Atheist overlooks is that we are not God. We cannot judge God’s actions. We don’t know when people are so lost to sin it is best for them to die, but He does.
What a Christian can understand is that Bible contains the true law. When the laws promoted by men exploit the poor, enslave those of another race, promote sexual perversion, discriminate based upon religious belief, require the practices of eugenics, and so forth; Christians must oppose and resists those laws. Yet because the Bible says God appoints our leaders, that is, our government, we may find ourselves in something of a conundrum.
Exodus 20:1-17, The Ten Commandments, summarize the Law. Jesus further condensed the Law.
Mark 12:29-30 New King James Version (NKJV)
29 Jesus answered him, “The[a]first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’[b]This is the first commandment.
When the government demands that we violate God’s Law, be hateful to either God or our neighbor, we must oppose and resist it.
When our government prohibits preaching the Gospel
There are Christians dying today because their government prohibits spreading the Gospel, but they disobey and preach the Word. The Apostles set the example. When they were brought before the Sanhedrin and told to stop speaking of Jesus Christ, here is how they responded.
Acts 4:18-21 New King James Version (NKJV)
18 So they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. 20 For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” 21 So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way of punishing them, because of the people, since they all glorified God for what had been done.
Eventually, the Jewish leaders persecuted and scatter the Christian Church, but that was like pouring water on an oil fire. The fire spread. So in time the Christian Church spread throughout the Roman Empire.
As Christians, we exist to glorify God by loving Him and each other. Government exists to protect our ability to love God and each other. It also exists to protect our ability to teach others to do the same.