“Never talk about religion and politics!” This is the generational guidance for maintaining social peace. It’s supposed to keep things light and cordial. This article, however, combines the two (what am I thinking?)! My goal is to bring greater courtesy toward those who differ politically than you. If you open up Facebook, Twitter, or look at the news, it is hard to see anything without another endorsement, quote, video, or article regarding politics, especially in an election year (and especially this election year). If you think the article or quote is controversial, wonderful, or irritating, just scroll to the Comments (on second thought, don’t do that!). As Christians, it is easy to get swept up into conservative or liberal, Republican, Democrat or Libertarian rhetoric. We can get lost in the clouds of culture and lose sight of the bigger picture. I want to remind Christians of five truths that should inform our understanding and relationship to government:
1. Government Leaders are Appointed by God (Romans 13:1)
The apostle Paul tells his readers in Rome, the capital of the Roman Empire (no strangers to politics there), that those in “authority” have been “instituted by God” (Romans 13:1). God does not make any mistakes! He has never been caught off guard. That man or woman has been divinely appointed by God to sit in that position. (Note: This doesn’t mean those individuals are pleasing God, but rather that he or she has been appointed by God to that position.)
2. Obey Government Leaders (Romans 13:1; Titus 3:1; 1 Peter 2:13)
Christians like freedom. We don’t like people telling us what to do and are quick to say so when we don’t agree (just ask your mom or dad about your childhood). For Christians, they will quickly appeal to Peter and John responding to the religious leaders about obeying God over man (Acts 4:5-21, especially verse 20-21). The main point is this: For Christians, there are often more occasions for obeying the government than disobeying. Exceptions are always rare and our desire to see exceptions often reveals more about our unwillingness to submit than the particular issue we point out.
3. Pay Taxes to the Government (Luke 20:22-25; Romans 13:6-7)
Paying taxes demonstrates that the Christian’s identity is deeper and more lasting than the few bucks saved by lying or evading taxes. Paying taxes, especially to those with whom Christians disagree, is a proclamation that money is not the defining value of their life. Our feelings toward government or particular leaders is never the issues with paying taxes. Our unwillingness to pay taxes is often a heart issue not a monetary or political one. Paying taxes exemplifies a life of trust in the sovereignty of God.
4. Pray for Government Leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-4)
Praying for leaders goes beyond a National Day of Prayer (however important that may be). Praying for our leaders, regardless of their political views, is the opportunity to intercede for their salvation (2:4), for God’s wisdom, and your humble, courageous, willing obedience. Praying for our leaders is the reminder to pray for God’s kingdom over and above any kingdom of earth.
5. Honor Government Leaders (Romans 13:7; 1 Peter 2:17)
Christians are to give honor “to whom honor is due” (Romans 13:7) or to “honor the emperor” (1 Peter 2:17). Our Facebook posts, casual conversations, and political humor are often anything but honoring to our governing leaders. We give a quick jab about their policy or element of their personal life that we know nothing about. Political humor of our leaders is now taking precedence over honoring our governing authorities.
My prayer for Christians this election year is that we would be defined by values and behavior reflective of God’s character.
Christians should be more known for their godly behavior than their particular political affiliation or agenda. The apostle Peter sums things up well: “For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.” (1 Peter 2:15-16).