THE CHRISTIAN ATTITUDE TOWARD THE STATE

As Christians, what do we do when government disappoints us? Are we going to curse civil leaders when they do not live up to our expectations? Are we going to stage a hate campaign, take up arms and rebel against government? Martin Luther called human government as God’s left-handed kingdom. He also said that God puts bad men in control (in government), to control bad men. Furthermore, Martin Luther said that human government as good as it possibly can, is still the result of the fall, influenced by the fall, and is basically unchristian. There are no Christian nations. There are just Christians within human governments. We must realize that God is sovereign in human governments, not just in history but in the formation, the continuation, and the limits of human government (cf. 2 Chronicles 36:22; Isaiah 44:28; Daniel 2:21). God is in control of human governments. That does not mean that they are spiritual entities. It simply means that God has purposed that human government exists for the purpose of keeping law and order in a fallen world. Therefore, He establishes them and controls them. God’s people are repeatedly admonished to submit themselves to these human governments, even invading occupying governments for that matter (cf. Daniel chapts. 1-4). God’s people are also admonished to pray for civil governments (cf. Jer. 29:7) lest men would swallow each other alive (cf. Sayings of the Fathers 3:2). Christians are to give unto civil governments that which rightly belongs to them because it is God Himself who sets governments up. But give to God what belongs to Him whenever the state claims ultimacy (especially in the sense of the deity of the emperor cf. Matt. 22:21; Romans 13:1), and the state has gone beyond the bounds that God has given it. And therefore, we cannot submit to that, yet there is a realm in which we are to submit as unto the Lord to civil authorities, not necessarily that we agree with them, but we are to do it because we are Christians, and how we act affects evangelism and ministry. Everyone must obey the civil authorities as a matter of attitude. It’s a Biblical attitude of reverence and submission to others because of our relationship with God (cf. Eph. 5:21). No authority exists except ordained by God. All human governments have only the authority that comes from God, because God is the only source of authority. This is not to assert the divine right of government, it simply means that God prefers government order than chaos. Human governments are under God’s control and God’s appointment or ordination, and anyone who resists its authority sets himself against God. To rebel against civil governments is to rebel against God. The basic attitude of Christians is reverence, honor, respect, and duty as far as taxes and prayer towards civil governments.

There is a difference in the Bible between how we treat civil government and how we look at it. Paul seems to be very respectful, and Peter seems to say the very same thing. But John in Revelation 13 calls human government the ‘Beast’ as the ultimate enemy of God. The anti-Christ is going to work through human government; so though we have a respect and reverence toward it, it is not ultimate. When the day comes where the government says, “worship me” or “do what i say”, or “i’m ultimate”, we stand up in love, and we die, and by our death and our attitude, God will win more to Himself. We don’t go get a gun and build a safe house, and store water and food, and kill everybody who comes. Human government is ordained by God, but it should not be construed as its divine right. No one form of government is advocated above another. In Scripture, it is a religious duty for believers to obey civil authority with a proper attitude. It is proper for believers to support human government with their money and their prayers. Human government is for the purpose of order. They are God’s servants for a task. Human government is not ultimate in its authority. Believers must act for conscience sake in respecting civil authority, but not when it oversteps its God-given bounds. In his book, City of God, Augustine asserted that we are citizens of two realms, one temporal, and one eternal. We have responsibilities, but God’s kingdom is eternal. We have a corporate responsibility as well as an individual response in a democratic society. We are to try to influence government by going into politics, if we can’t influence it along Biblical principles. However, we should remember that our hope does not come from government. It never will. It can’t. It won’t. We should encourage believers in a democratic system to actually participate in the process of government, and to implement when possible the teachings of Scriptures, but government will never solve the problem of human society.