“Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgement upon themselves.” Romans 13:1-2 NIV
“Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men; whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. Live as free men but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone; love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king” I Peter 2:13-17 NIV
These are the words of Paul and Peter, two of Christ’s apostles who are considered to be among the most influential men used by God to establish his church. They were written during a period of time when the governing authorities they speak of were among the most oppressive and evil men on earth. It is likely that both of these men wrote while Nero was Caesar. From the time of both of these letters to fellow believers, it would not be long before both Apostles would be executed by that very governing authority, nor would it be very far into the future that the same government would make martyrs out of thousands of Christians, mainly because they would not acknowledge the godhood of the emperor. Their response, rather than organizing a rebellion and raising up an army in opposition, was to demonstrate a willingness to die for their belief in Jesus that spoke of its truthfulness and sincerity to millions of people across the ages.
Paul said that for him to live was Christ, and to die was gain. It became clear, in the early church, that thousands of people would believe that message. They were able to face each day, even when terror, torture and death were lurking around each corner because they knew this truth. They understood and believed that God was in control, and they also understood that the life to come was better than the one they had. And it still is that way.
It was very important, in those early days, for the church to have a testimony that supported the gospel message it proclaimed. That’s why Paul, Peter and the other New Testament writers encouraged believers to avoid doing things that would damage their reputation and undermine and impair their ability to share the gospel. Rebellion against the governing authorities falls into the same category as the immoral and dishonest behavior that they also warned about. Aside from putting churches, most of which were just small groups of individuals who were vulnerable to the circumstances in which they lived, in the path of danger, a rebellious attitude was considered a demonstration of selfishness. God’s desire was for the church to survive, and to preach the gospel with a lifestyle that was consistent with its words.
It would be hard to imagine the reaction the people of Paul and Peter’s day would have if they could somehow be brought to our current time and could witness the democracy in which we live. We have been incredibly blessed, and we remain so. In fact, we are so blessed that we have become selfish and complacent at the same time, and we take far more for granted than we should. So I am a bit puzzled by the histeria and the “gloom and doom” attitude that seems to have invaded at least a portion of the Christian church in the time before an election takes place, especially when the prospect of victory doesn’t seem to be on the side of the “favored” candidate of some Christians and Christian leaders.
The Christian church has survived, and thrived, in some of the worst conditions imagineable, under some of the most horrific dictatorships and oppressive governments that the world has ever seen. The gospel has been preached, people have come to Christ, and the church has been the bride of Christ that God intended for it to be under circumstances and conditions that most of us could not even imagine. In many cases, it has thrived under those very conditions. Yet here, in America, where we are so blessed, our tendency is to gripe and complain if we don’t get our way, and blame the things that are happening, or that are not happening, in the church on our circumstances. It’s the government’s fault, or the media’s fault, or the fault of secular, public education, or, if we are just plain honest, it’s all bad because we no longer have all of the advantages and privileges that we have come to expect or think are due to us.
Read some blogs, some books, or listen to some sermons these days and you will think the world is coming to an end. It may well be so. Then, on the other hand, it may not be. God has told us on more than one occasion, and had it written down for us, that’s a secret we are not privileged to know. But if I understand his Word, my instructions are to wake up on Wednesday morning, if I still have the breath of life, and go out and be the Christian that I was on Monday and Tuesday. The church will still be the church. And if that’s the case, then many of our churches in this country need to take stock of what they are doing, wake up out of their lethargy and their selfishness, and get about the Lord’s business, regardless of who will be moving in or out of Washington, D.C. That won’t matter, because God is in control.
No painting with a broad brush here, or casting blame, but there are Christians and church leaders who haven’t heeded these words of Peter and Paul, and in their political zeal, they are doing exactly what the two Apostles were trying to prevent; they are causing the church to be polarized and pigeonholed by the very culture that needs to hear what it has to say. Don’t nullify your testimony over politics. Vote, support your candidate, but do it in such a way that you bring honor and glory to God.
He is in control, on both November 4th and November 5th.