The Bible says a lot about the relationship between Christians and the government. The Word of God clearly tells us to obey our governmental leaders and authorities. It is also said that the government must treat the people justly. However, since our government is composed of human beings, unfair and unjust treatment sometimes occurs. Just because our government is imperfect doesn’t mean that we can stop living up to our Christian roles.
A good government is one that obeys and follows God’s commandments. One can easily put his or her trust in the government if it is founded in the Word of God. The Bible tells us that we need to obey our leaders, masters, rulers, and our government. It is said in Romans 13:1-2 (ESV), “Let everyone be subject 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, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves”. Remember that God is sovereign over all things and authorities. He created a system for human beings to live in an orderly and organized manner.
The Apostle Peter also told us to submit ourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority among men, whether this is 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 (1 Peter 2:13-14). We can also find many Bible verses that remind servants to obey their masters (Ephesians 6:5-8; Colossians 3:22-25; 1 Timothy 6:1-2; 1 Peter 2:18-20; Titus 2:9-11). Jesus Himself also told us, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-29 (NIV)). The behavior and attitude of Jesus Christ is the perfect model of a great leader. He also taught us how to obey our leaders or masters, just as He obeyed the Father.
Jesus and the Government
However, what if the government strays from its purpose and becomes cruel and oppressive to the people? Are we still to live in obedience? The answer is yes. The Bible is clear in 1 Peter 2:18-19, “You who are slaves must submit to your masters with all respect. Do what they tell you—not only if they are kind and reasonable, but even if they are cruel. For God is pleased when, conscious of his will, you patiently endure unjust treatment.” During Jesus’ time on earth, the Roman government taxed Jews unjustly and numerous tax collectors were considered thieves or enemies. When the disciples of the Pharisees tried to trap Jesus and asked Him about taxes, our Lord and Savior took a coin and said, “Whose picture and title are stamped in it?” They replied, “Caesar’s”. Then Jesus said to them, “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God” (Matthew 22:15-22 (NLT)). They were amazed at Jesus’ answer and went away.
Paul also encouraged the people to pay their taxes, because the authorities are God’s servants, and it is God who gives them the ability to govern (Romans 13:6). Paying our taxes and being obedient to the government is a Christian thing to do. Obeying our authorities is also a form of obeying God. Of course, we also have to consider context here. If your government is truly against God and His Word, then it is best that you don’t follow what they are commanding you to do. For example, if the government commands you to not obey God and reject your belief in Jesus Christ, then it is time for you to resist and stand firm. Always remember that it is better to fear God than man. It is better to be saved from God’s judgment seat than from the courts of men.
Christian Submission on Earth
Don’t forget that Christian submission here on earth has limits. In the Book of Acts 5:28, the apostles were told to stop teaching or preaching the Gospel or the resurrection of Jesus in Jerusalem. The apostles were aware that the authority of God is far more superior to men, so they followed God. We are told that “we must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). If an authority or the government tells us to do anything that contradicts the Bible and God, then we need to refuse. Be aware of this limitation and experience true freedom in Christ.
Christians should be humble and submissive to the government. We are told to obey and honor our parents. Church members are told to submit to their leaders or pastors. Wives are told to submit to their husbands and slaves to their masters. We submit not because human authorities told us to do so, but rather for the Lord’s sake and His alone. Our loyalty is always to God. Christians know that the final authority belongs to Him.
We Christians should be humble, submissive people. We should respect the speed limit. If we are children, we should obey our parents. If we are church members, we should submit to our leaders. If we are wives, we should submit to our husbands. If we are employees, we should arrive on time and leave on time, and not fail to achieve what the employer expects of us. We are a people who submit. The government may harm, oppress, or even kill us for our beliefs, but as children of God, we shall not fear, because we have hope. We wait for the coming of the Kingdom of God with the promise that He will release great power and revival to each one of us. Rejoice, for the Kingdom and Kingship of Jesus is real!