As we celebrate America’s 240th birthday this month, I’d like for us to think about a Christian’s responsibility to the government. The Bible makes it clear that human government has been established by God to make and enforce good laws. Therefore a Christian should ask, “What kind of citizen does God want me to be?” To help answer that question, here are 3 obligations of each Christian toward our government.
1. We need to pray – fervent intercession for all people who are in positions of authority
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. – 1 Timothy 2:1-2
- Call to pray – We must pray for our government leaders. At the time Paul wrote these words to Timothy, Nero was the Roman emperor. He was a cruel tyrant. If Paul could pray for that despot, we can pray for “all those in authority” today. Those in leadership positions are charged with great responsibility. The everyday decisions some of them make influence millions of lives. Evil spirits seek to influence earthly leaders, we need to combat that with our prayers.
- Purpose of prayer for leaders – Paul says the reason is “that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness”. You can be sure Paul had no illusions about Nero and his cohorts. He knew life would be difficult for everyone – especially for Christians. But he still told believers that favorable conditions would be enjoyed from time to time as a result of their prayers.
2. We need to be obedient – as we recognize the government’s authority comes from God.
Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. – Romans 13:1
- The extent of obedience – The Christian is to obey every regulation of his government unless it would cause him to disobey the Lord. Remember what the early apostles said, “We must obey God rather than human beings!” (Acts 5:29). However, no Christian has the right to reject a demand by the government just because he doesn’t agree with it.
- The manner of obedience – The Bible tells us that we are to treat others with respect and this includes those in authority. A believer may consider a law unfair, and he is free to respectfully speak out against it on that basis. But as long as it is on the books, he must obey it. Romans 13:7 says “Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.” Peter advised that we should look upon obedience to the government as an act of service to the Lord. He said “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority” (1 Peter 2:13a).
3. We need to give an intelligent witness – We need to bear witness to God and His moral laws in our communities.
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect… – 1 Peter 3:15
- Our personal testimony – God can change a lawbreaker into a law-abiding citizen. As we share what God has done for us, others just might decide to turn to God as well for their redemption. We can begin to change America one precious person at a time.
- The basis of law – We can help others who are concerned about lawlessness of our day. We can point out that anarchy and permissiveness are the logical byproducts of a philosophy of life that rejects the revelation of the Bible.
- The dignity of man – We are also to bear an effective witness by talking about human rights as outlined by the Scriptures.
Each one of us are to be a patriot. We should love our country and do all we can to promote its welfare. We can fulfill our responsibility as a believer by earnestly praying for our rulers, by living in respectful submission to authority and by bearing an intelligent witness to our neighbors.
To God and Country – Pastor Steve