by Mike Ratliff
13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, 14 or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. 15 For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. 16 Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God. 17 Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king. 1 Peter 2:13-17 (NASB)
As I write this it is October 29, 2020 and it has been a very trying year so far. This month, October, seems like it will never end. In any case, my wife and I voted early today because she will be having surgery on November 3rd. We drove over to our county election board office this morning and found a line wrapping around the parking lot and down the street. We almost decided not to vote because it is still cold especially with that very strong North wind. However, we decided to go ahead, find a place to park and get in line, which we did. The line moved very slow. We got in line around 10:00am. We finally were able to go inside and vote just before 1:00pm. We both were able to get our ballots and vote. It was such a relief to walk out of there knowing we were done. However, as we started walking down the street toward where we were parked we noticed that the line to get in to vote had only grown longer.
As we drove home we talked about the election and why so many people were voting this year when it past elections, it seemed to us, that people were somewhat apathetic about it. I made the comment that a lot of the people I knew were very ticked off about a great number of things and were bound and determined to do their part in stopping those who were attempting to overthrow our government and way of life, etc. Ina said that there was a great divide in our country. There didn’t appear to be a middle ground any more.
It was as I thought through these things from a Christian perspective it became abundantly clear that our role as Christians is very different from what our Natural Man, even with the best of intentions, thinks it should be. Our Natural Man wants to get politically involved and “do something” or “say something” to turn things around. However, that is not what Christians in this fallen World are to be about.
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 until Christ returns.
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 and California 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?
27 When they had brought them, they stood them before the Council. The high priest questioned them, 28 saying, “We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, and yet, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. Acts 5:27-29 (NASB)
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 probably 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.
Soli Deo Gloria!