by Mike Ratliff
Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 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. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. (1 Peter 2:13-17 ESV)
The election results from November 7th were not pleasing to me nor many of the Christians I know. In fact, it looks like a person who has a 95% Liberal rating from “People for the American Way” is to be the new Speaker of the House of Representatives. When I look at the election results from a temporal perspective, I get discouraged. When I get confused at why people would be stupid enough to vote for someone simply as a protest vote, I get frustrated and my natural man wants to “do something” or “say something” to turn things around.
Our temporal perspective tells us that we must manipulate our environment in every way that we can in order for it to match our value systems. The fact that every few years we have these elections in order to get the “will of the people” for our government can be quite disturbing to our natural man. We don’t naturally want to trust other people to vote correctly. This is why some countries will never have a legitimate representative system of government. The people simply do not trust other people to make decisions that will be okay with them.
As I suffered through the brutal election ad campaigns this year, I was forced many times to shut off my TV and do something else to keep from kicking in the screen. Lies, lies, lies… There were times I was convinced that all these liars would be elected and then our government would be in the hands of these despicable people which would result in hell on earth.
However, I have the Holy Spirit. I am in Christ. Christ is in me. I am a child of God and am a new creation. My treasure is in Heaven, not here on earth. God is sovereign. He is in complete control of His creation. Elected officials, monarchs, despots, dictators, senators, representatives, judges, mayors, and dog catchers are all in their positions because God elected them to be there. What about Hitler? What about Stalin? What about King Henry VIII? What about Bloody Mary? Yes, all of them reigned because God ordained it to be so. God is in control of our governments. He is the one who will allow wars and persecution. He is the one who is going to allow His people to be horribly persecuted and killed during the Tribulation.
When ungodly people reign over us, how are we to behave as Christians? Are we to hate the President and not serve him? Not according to Peter in his first epistle. Instead, we are to be subject to the government that God has placed over us. What about when they do ungodly things like forbidding worship, Bible reading, witnessing, preaching, and meetings? This is exactly what is happening in China right now. However, there are probably more Christians in China than there are people in the United States. They are underground for the most part. They meet in house churches always running the risk of arrest. Isn’t this defying the government that God has placed over them?
And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men (Acts 5:27-29 ESV)
The dividing line over obeying the government over us or not is very well defined. We are to obey the authorities over us in every case except where there is a conflict between it and God’s commands. God tells us to share the gospel with everyone. Some governments try to stop this. Is it wrong to defy the government here? No it isn’t because God’s commands take precedence. Has God anywhere commanded His people to despise and refuse to serve and honor the elected officials over us? No, not at all. We are not to do that. In fact, we are to simply obey God in all things giving quiet respect to all whom God has placed over us. Peter and John’s refusal to stop preaching was perfectly in line with God’s will. On the other hand, if they had acquiesced, giving in to the pressure to stop preaching, they would have been obedient to the government, but disobedient to God. That is wrong and sin every time.
Yes, there are some elected officials who will be sworn in in February that I do not care for. There are some I would like to see God take out somehow, but I cannot do anything but obey Him in these things. I must give quiet respect to the authorities He has placed over me while remaining completely obedient to Him.
Lastly, why would we think it a strange thing that God would allow ungodly people to reign over His people? Don’t we need cleansing through suffering? Doesn’t this humble us and prepare us for eternity? Isn’t our witness as we go through fiery trials what God uses to draw people to Himself? Let’s stop with the temporally focused resentment against those who have won office in the recently completed election. Instead let’s obey God in all things, submitting to the authorities He has placed over us in all things except where God has commanded us otherwise.
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