On Christians and Government

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

Jesus as He was about to ascend into heaven told the disciples that all authority in heaven and on earth had been given to Him. St. Paul echoes this truth in his letter to the Christians at Rome, that governing authority comes from God. Though it may be hard for us to grasp at times, every government’s authority to rule comes from God.

We are to pray for our elected leaders, even the ones we didn’t vote for and don’t like. We are to ask God to guide them as they seek to govern and that they do so wisely for all our people. We are, in so far as we can, support our government as they govern on our behalf.

Of course, how human beings use, and more often misuse, that authority is far too clear from even a brief review of human history. Since governments are made up of human beings and human beings are all under the bondage to sin, that sinful behavior will play out when humans have the power of government behind them.

So what is the Christian to do? The simple answer is, in so far as it is possible, we obey the legal governmental authority that is over us. This is, of course, very easy to say living NE Iowa where there is minimal danger from the government. We are free to support or disagree with our government. We may protest government decisions openly and with little fear of reprisal. We may say what we think of any elected official without fear of arrest as long as we do so within the law. It is easy to obey the government here.

But what of those circumstances where our faith collides with governmental authority? What is the Christian to do if what the government demands goes against God? First, we are to be clear that the government’s action is contrary to what God commands us. If the government calls upon us to oppress our neighbors, to support actions that are clearly contrary to the Commandments or even a denial of God, then as a Christians, we are to obey God before men.

We also must be clear that to obey God before men will have consequences. Christians throughout the ages have suffered at the hands of the state for their refusal to obey. We must be willing to do the same if we believe that our government is acting against God. 

With all this in mind, let us give God thanks that we enjoy the freedoms we have in our nation. Let us also pray and work for our government to be even better than it is. Let us pray and work for those freedoms to known by all of God’s children throughout the world.  

In Christ,

Pr. Hatcher