No matter what country you live in, politics can be divisive. In the United States most seem divided on the current president, as they have been on the past few presidents. Some don’t believe that he can do anything right and others would take the view that although he isn’t perfect he is better than what the opposition offers.
Then in the United Kingdom, where I live, the big issue is Brexit – Britain leaving the European Union. The new prime minister has pledged to honour the UK leaving at the deadline. But some don’t want this to happen. People seem to be more aware of what is going on politically in this country than they have been for years.
But what exactly is the Christian to do about politics? Can we have political views? What should we be doing? Paul addressed this in his letter to the Christians in Rome.
“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except by God’s appointment, and the authorities that exist have been instituted by God. So the person who resists such authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will incur judgment (for rulers cause no fear for good conduct but for bad).” (Romans 13:1-3 NET)
In a nutshell, Christians are to “be subject to the governing authorities”. Before we begin objecting to this, we need to realise the government the Christians who originally received this letter were under. This was first-century Rome and Nero was in power. Although he had not yet reached the peak of his cruelty, those were only a few years in the future. So no matter who is in charge in our country, realise that most are not anything as cruel as Nero.
Often Christians get caught up in the rhetoric of political positions and forget God’s view of human governments. “For there is no authority except by God’s appointment, and the authorities that exist have been instituted by God.” If this was true for those with governing power when Paul wrote, it is just as true today. If this was true for Nero, it is just as true for Donald Trump, Boris Johnson, or whoever is ruling in your country. God truly is in charge, not just of our country but of the entire world.
So, if God is the one who appoints rulers, when we resist our government we are in reality going against God. This obviously is not saying that we must obey our government when laws are passed that go against God – as the apostles said to the Jewish authorities when told to quit telling about Jesus, “we must obey God rather than people” (Acts 5:28). But this is not a catch-all to go against anything we don’t like. We must be good citizens and in subjection to the laws of the land.
“Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of the wrath of the authorities but also because of your conscience. For this reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants devoted to governing. Pay everyone what is owed: taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honour to whom honour is due.” (Romans 13:5-7 NET)
Because we are Christians and want to be good citizens we need to “pay everyone what is owed”, whether it is taxes, respect or honour.
If the leaders of our countries are as bad as some people make out, don’t forget to pray for them (2 Timothy 2:1-2)! After all, if God appointed them, we need to be appealing to his higher authority.
Readings for next week: Romans 13-16; 1 Corinthians 1