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“And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly.” ~ Mark 8:31-32a
From various Scriptures to the Savior Himself, we were confronted with this Sovereign, selective God who is intimately involved with the political powers of our planet.
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. ~ Romans 13:1-2
Paul, Peter, and Jesus leave little room for prescribing a #notmyemperor movement. They might as well start a #notmygod movement just to cover their bases and be consistent.
For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. ~ Romans 13:3-5
Should a Christian be terrified of President Trump? I know of many who are. Should Christians have been terrified of President Obama? I knew many who were.
Now, I don’t know many who will admit they are (or were) in terror, but their words and behavior indicate inasmuch. It’s easy to jump to the most extreme, negative conclusions about others, especially strangers, and sometimes disguise our personal terror and offense as something more benign or noble, like a “concern” — for the nation, future, marginalized, world, Church and so on.
This was me for years, and thanks to the incessant media, I know I wasn’t alone.
So if a Christian is exemplifying “good conduct,” where does political panic come from? In light of the verses above, I can think of three roots (this is by no means exhaustive):
- We’re not as “good” as we’d like to think or portray. That’s me.
- We are fear-based, and this is the reason we struggle with the real issues before us. Or worse, we are so fear-ridden that we create conflicts in our heads. Either way, it is our modus operandi, proactively or reactively. That’s me.
- We recognize that our authorities better know the difference between “good” and “bad” in order for this benefit to actualize. Everyday struggle for me.
We all have #1 down, but many Christians I know vacillate between #2 (fear) and #3 (justifiable concern over morally bankrupt leaders).
What a blessing to have a leader that is aware of his or her God-given responsibility! (2 Chron. 19:4-7) More on that in the next and final post in this series…
Also, notice from verses 3-5 that subjection serves two purposes: to avoid God’s wrath and to also calm one’s conscience. Intriguing since it is the consciences of many that lead them in an entirely different direction.
Furthermore, did you notice that governing authorities are called “God’s servants” twice in verse 4?! Paul must have been crazy, right?! I mean, if he knew of someone like Donald Trump, surely he would have considered more appropriate language.
Two things to ponder.
First, it actually doesn’t matter if Paul knew about Donald Trump. The Holy Spirit did, and it’s under His guidance that Paul penned these words.
Second, the man who ran Rome during Paul’s ministry was Emperor Nero, a man who makes the treacheries of Trump look like schoolboy offenses. He was evil incarnate, especially toward the Church.
He fed Christians to lions in the arena. He set the bodies of Christians on fire using them as lights for his parties. He had his own mother murdered and even killed one of his own wives who was with child. And according to Eusebius, the same Paul who penned Romans 13 and Titus 3, was beheaded at the order of Nero, or one of his subordinates shortly after the Great Fire—an event that Nero blamed on the Christians.
It is believed that the apostle Peter, who also wrote about this same kind of submission (see 1 Pet. 2:13-25), was crucified upside down around the same time under the same rule.
These facts greatly disturb my presuppositions about my relationship to my government!
Where’s the democratic process?! Where’s the freedom of speech?!
Were Paul and Peter paid to write this stuff?! Surely they would have never written such things if they knew their own fates, right?
Perhaps the distinctions between democracy and discipleship are greater than we could ever imagine, and when our political process contradicts the Prince of Peace, which will the Church choose — our rights or His righteousness?
As the origins of the Church display, God’s will on earth might need to be actualized outside of our government’s approval, programs, and funding.
And if there’s anything we learn from church history, the government should never be the means through which we bring God’s Kingdom. When the Church and government marry, it always begets the ugliest of offspring.
A stiff arm is drastically difference from a soft heart. And may I dare say that although philanthropy brings awe-inspiring good to our world, a tax deduction is not love.
The cross of Christ reveals true love, both selfless and sacrificial.
For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. ~ Romans 13:6-7
As we enter tax season, don’t you wish Jesus answered the spies differently? (see Lk. 20:19-26) Every April 15th, instead of paying you could defy the government in Jesus’s name.
Ironically, it’s this prevalent attitude among Christians that helped inspire the HOPE4Politics series.
All joking aside, did you catch that Paul called governing authorities “ministers of God” also?! Not just His servants, but ministers. And just as citizens owe a debt of taxes or revenue, we owe debts of respect and honor as well. Respect and honor…this sure doesn’t sound like the politics I know.
Let’s be brutally honest: how teachable and approachable are we regarding political matters? If we’re not sure, let’s ask those who know us best.
People are literally throwing away their relationships over this stuff. From un-friending folks on Facebook to clamming up at the family get-togethers, we’re altogether losing far more than we can calculate.
Out of all the offshoots and rabbit trails, one sobering truth politics brings to mind is that things do not go my way. No matter how passionate I feel, how logical my argumentation, or how noble my cause, I often do not get my way.
It’s the toughest pill to swallow. It’s frustrating, confusing, and makes me want to quit the longer I think upon it. But this also how my walk of faith is!
“God could really learn some things,” is unfortunately my attitude from time to time! But I’m not alone…
Remember how I began by quoting Mark 8:31-32a?
“And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly.”
Do you recall how the rest of the conversation went?
“And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” ~ Mark 8:32b-33
I approach suffering, submission and subjection like the apostle Peter after he learned of Jesus’ death. I cry, “Foul!,” “Unfair!,” “Unjust!,” “Never!” I’d rebuke Jesus to His face if given the chance. His ways offend me more than I care to admit. That’s how far my mind can be from God.
And I do this over the smallest, most selfish things. I can’t imagine how far my jaw would drop if I were in Peter’s sandals!
Can anyone relate?
Anarchy, nor the extreme views of nationalism or patriotism, are options supported by Scripture. There’s a balance, and it’s only found when we have the appropriate object in focus. (Heb. 12:1-3) Remember, Christians look to “the hills” for help, not Capitol Hill. (see Ps. 121:1-2)
And at the very least, we should be civil in our civics. As the flow of Paul’s Roman letter indicates, our democratic dealings should reveal and produce the righteousness of God.
“…for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” ~ James 1:20
Let’s all keep our “concerns” where they belong; filtered and undergirded by our love for God and others. Too often a seemingly innocent “concern” grows into prejudice, fear, or hatred. I have seen the line blurred way too often between these vices and “righteous indignation,” where Christians justify pointing fingers, mudslinging, and a host of other ineffective, harmful behaviors.
As we post or share political messages with numerous people, let’s examine our motives. And remember, it’s not just what we do but more so how we do it. Methodology and marketing are HUGE when dealing with politics.
Years ago, my motive to get political with people was either to pad my intellectual ego or to incite fear. Whether in a private conversation or from a pulpit, I thought I was doing everyone a favor!!!
Airing out the dirty, political laundry is killing us. It’s not persuading or educating as much as we’d like to think, but it is burning bridges. And as manual writing and print are fading, many are forgetting the difference between a journal and a social media post.
THE ENDS DO NOT JUSTIFY THE MEANS. The means MUST justify themselves, and as agents of God’s Kingdom, Christians are charged to carry out our emotional weariness and mental exhaustion in more sanctified means.
These applications (and more perhaps), I truly believe, would bring HOPE to our nation and world.
In closing, I want to encourage you to stay tuned for the final post in this series. There we will explore the sometimes sobering reality of reaping what we sow. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton did not come out of nowhere…the writing was on “the wall” (pun…get it?) for these two individuals.
Until then, keep the HOPE, hipsters!