Thursday, August 09, 2012

Hail to the Chief!

It’s election time and boy is the mud being slung.  Civility is absent.  Negative campaigning reigns supreme.  Name calling and character assassination seems to be the name of the game.  I’m not surprised by that.  I understand and accept the fact that this is the state of American politics in our culture today.  But what I don’t understand and what I can’t accept is to see and hear Christians stooping to the same levels in speaking about the candidates they oppose.

A little over four years ago I did a personal study on what Scripture teaches us about how a follower of Jesus should respond to our governmental authorities.  At the time I did this study, the primaries were far from decided and John McCain and Barak Obama both appeared like longshots to win their respective party’s nomination.  I did this study realizing that we were just a few months away from a new President taking the Oath of Office and I wanted my study to be based solely on what Scripture said without the identity of the person sitting behind the desk in the oval office playing a part in my conclusions.

As I have watched the current presidential election heat up and listened to so many people, including Christians, voice their opinions, I thought it might be a good time to revisit what that study taught me.  Let’s begin in Romans 13:1 which says,

“Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities.  For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.”  

Putting aside political affiliations and individual candidates in this year’s contest, what does this verse teach us?  To discover this, let’s answer three basic questions – WHO?  WHAT? WHY?

WHO is this verse directed toward?  “Every person” is a reference to every single follower of Jesus.  That is who Paul is writing to – the church at Rome.  So the principles in this verse apply to me as a follower of Jesus and if you are a follower of Jesus, they apply to you as well.

WHAT is every follower of Jesus to do?  We are to “be in subjection” to the governing authorities.  The word, “subjection,” is a military term referring to soldiers who line up for battle under the authority of their ranking superior.  This isn’t just the idea of obedience.  This also is the idea of honoring and respecting.  And it is important to note that this is a command, not an option.  We are to willingly place ourselves under our governing authorities showing them honor and respect.

In case you are thinking that this principle is not clearly taught in Scripture, Paul gives a similar command in Titus 3:1-2 when he instructs Titus to, “Remind them (believers) to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men.”

The same command is also given by Peter in 1 Peter 2:13-15,  “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right.  For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men.”

When you read Paul’s words in Romans and Titus as well as Peter’s words, there appears to be no general exception to the admonition of Paul and Peter.  This command applies whether the leader is

-competent or incompetent!
-moral or immoral!
-cruel or kind!
-godly or ungodly!
-Democrat or a Republican!

And this principle applies whether I voted for the individual against them.  The only exception given in Scripture is when a leader’s command or law would require us to disobey God’s Word.  I’ll give some examples of that from Scripture in my blog posting tomorrow.  But for today, let’s just make sure we understand the general principle of Scripture.

WHY are we as believers to be in subjection to our governing authorities?  According to Paul, it is because “human authorities are established by God.”  Paul goes on to say that “there is no authority except from God.”  By the way, when Paul wrote this letter to the church at Rome, the Roman leader was a man named Nero who was one of the cruelest persecutors of Christians in the history of the world.  If all human government is established by God as Paul is teaching, then Nero’s reign was also ordained by God as well.  I know that is hard for us to swallow.

The same principle is true concerning our current President and so it will be true with whoever wins the election this November.  John MacArthur said it this way, “No human government at any time in history, at any place on earth, among any people on earth, at any level of society, has ever existed or will exist apart from the sovereign authority of God.”

How I respond as a follower of Jesus to governmental authorities must stem from that principle.  That should effect how I respond to all governing authorities.  That should also have an effect on how I speak of all governing authorities.  Remember that in the same passage where Paul told Titus to submit to governing rulers, he also said to “malign no one.”  Yet, many who are followers of Jesus seem to feel justified in speaking demeaning and disrespectful words of politicians that they disagree with or politicians that they did not vote for in the election.  I know that is the way of politics today but it doesn’t have to be the way of the church.  Believe it or not, it is possible to disagree without being disrespectful.  

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