Thursday, July 15, 2010

A Manifesto for Christian citizenship

Principles from my study of Romans 13:1-7. I welcome feedback. I am still working on these, but I offer them for your consideration.

  1. The institution of Government, like marriage, is a manifestation of God’s common grace and is designed for the benefit of the human race. Even though it is frequently disfigured through human sin and weakness, it remains a blessing and benefit for all humanity – having been established by direct command of God (Gen. 9:3-6).

  2. God sovereignly raises specific governmental leaders, sometimes for judgment, sometimes for reward (v. 1; Cf. Dan. 4:30-37; Jn. 19:11). Their rise or fall is according to His providential plan (Dan. 2:21; 4:17, 25; Acts 17:26)
  3. In the USA we have the historically rare privilege of voting for governmental leaders and therefore we have a civic responsibility to exercise our right to vote.
  4. Regardless of how leaders come to power we must still submit to them (Matt. 23:1-3).
    Our submission to leaders must be done for conscience sake (i.e. in recognition of God’s sovereign purposes) as an expression of a transformed mind (v. 5).
  5. We must submit to the law even in those areas where we do not like or agree with it (v. 1a; Cf. Titus 3:1; 1 Pet. 2:13-15).
  6. We have a duty to disobey the law when it violates God’s law in the area of evangelism (Mk. 16:15; Acts 5:29), worship (Ex. 20:3; Dan. 3:13-18; Dan. 6:10-15), or morality (Ex. 1:15-21). This determination is based upon whether the government is requiring us to obey them and disobey God.
  7. God has established both the Church and the Government and given them specific and non-overlapping spheres of responsibility (vv. 3-4).
  8. The Church’s sphere is Gospel preaching – which she alone can do, and which alone can eternally transform a person from sinner to saint (Rom. 1:16; Acts 4:12).
  9. The Church frequently loses the Gospel when it becomes too heavily involved in areas not essential to Gospel preaching (“social Gospel” Cf. Gal. 1:8-10).
  10. Individual Christians, if called by God, can and may become heavily involved in government (it is the diakonos of God v. 4), but the church should not find itself supporting specific political parties or candidates. The servant of God is the institution called Government, not necessarily any specific form or régime.
  11. The government’s primary sphere is promoting good and suppressing evil through the use of law and enforcement up to and including the use of capital punishment (v 4).
  12. Because government is God’s sovereign plan, we are obligated to fund it through taxes and custom duties (v. 6-7a; Cf. Mk. 12:13-17)
  13. We must honor and respect our leaders because of their God given position, whether or not they are individually worthy of honor (v. 7b; Acts 23:5; Jer. 29:7). To do otherwise is to dishonor the God who stands behind their authority (e.g. wives respecting husbands - Eph. 5:22).
  14. Since God calls governmental authorities “ministers” (v. 4) and “servants” (v. 7) we can conclude that governmental service is an honorable Christian endeavor.

As Christians we have a duty to publicly pray for our governmental leaders, that God would grant them the ability to govern in a way that promotes peace and harmony both nationally and internationally. This provides an environment beneficial to Gospel growth (1 Tim. 2:1-2). Additionally, Christians should pray for the salvation of governmental leaders (1 Tim. 2:3ff).

Hard Questions from Rom. 13:1-7

The following are my tentative answers to a number of “hard questions” relating to Paul’s teaching in Romans regarding the Christian response to Government. I begin with this non-tentative presupposition: The Gospel transforms all aspects of life – even how we relate to civil authorities.

What if the leaders come into power illegitimately?

Paul does not concern himself with how the leaders come to power from a human viewpoint. Furthermore, Jesus indicates that people are to obey their leaders but not emulate their wickedness (Matt. 23:1-3). Their position of authority seems to be Jesus’ concern, not the legitimacy of how they got there (“they seat themselves in the chair of Moses…).

Does the Bible provide a right of self-defense?

My answer to that question is a qualified yes. According to Rom. 12:17-21, as followers of Christ, we are forbidden to personally retaliate or seek revenge for personal insult or provocation. Furthermore, we are look to our governing authorities to suppress evil.

But what happens if the government is unable, or unwilling to defend its citizens?

At that point I would argue for a very limited and careful application of the principle of Ex. 22:2-3; Cf. Lk. 22:35-35.
"If a thief is caught breaking in and is struck so that he dies, the defender is not guilty of bloodshed; but if it happens after sunrise, he is guilty of bloodshed. NIV
The principle seems to be that if you can avoid violence you should. In modern terms I believe our first response should be to call the police. If they can not save you then I think as head of a home you have a quasi-governmental role to suppress evil.

What if the government is the source of evil like Nazi Germany?

In answering this question I would like to begin by making some Biblical observations.
On two occasions, when David had opportunity to kill Saul, who was trying to kill him, he refrained - even though David had been ordained by God to assume the throne of Israel (1 Sam. 24 & 26).

Jesus told Peter to put away the sword when Peter was trying to defend Jesus against those who were intending to kill Him (Matt. 26:52).

During the terrible persecutions of Antichrist we do not read about violent opposition to his reign, but are instead given this shocking vision of end-time events… "And when He broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, wilt Thou refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?" And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, should be completed also." Rev. 6:9-11

In Rom. 8:35-37 Paul says that even though the believers are like sheep to be slaughtered – nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.

Therefore, I am forced to conclude that we can run and we can hide – but if our persecution comes about because of commitment to Christ then we may not utilize violence in the name of the Prince of Peace (Jn. 18:36).

4. Can a government over-tax the people? (Inflation/intentionally debasing the money supply – the hidden tax (Haggai 1:6). {This area needs further development}

1 comment:

  1. Great summary of the concept so far! It is really helpful to my heart to see it all in one place.