Politics have been very much in the spot light over the last few months. Whether it’s state and federal governments exerting more obvious control over our lives in their efforts to control the spread of COVID (think lockdowns, masks & QR Codes), the drama of the US presidential elections, or the tension between Australia and the communist leadership in China, politics have dominated media, conversations, and in many cases, our concerns. So how should we think about all of this as Christians?
Firstly, we need to acknowledge that the Bible was written in politically varied situations. The Bible writers lived under the rule of family patriarchs, local chiefs, charismatic judges, dynastic kings, and foreign Emperors. The Bible doesn’t mandate a single “biblical” model of government. While we may argue the benefits of one model over another, the Bible does not lock down onto one singular political expression.
Secondly, the sovereignty of God over all human authority is maintained. Israel’s kings were commanded to commence their rule by writing out their personal copy of the Law (Dt. 18.18). We are told that even the pagan rulers are under the sovereign control of the Lord and accountable to him (Is 44.28).
Thirdly, even pagan rulers are called “God’s servants”, instituted by him for our good (see Rom 13.1-7). We are told to honour them (Rom 13.7) and to be obedient to them (Titus 3.1). It is self-evident that a stable society with a competent government is a blessing to those who live under its rule.
Lastly, we must acknowledge the benefits of a democratic system. Famously, Reinhold Niebuhr said of democracy: “Human capacity for justice makes democracy possible; but human inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary.” A properly functioning democracy should maximise the positive and minimise the negative effects of fallen human nature.
So what does this mean for us? Jesus expressed the essence of our response when he told us to “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” (Mk 12.17). We honour God by submitting to Caesar, only so far as Caesar doesn’t demand from us what rightly belongs to God. This may mean that the Christian will be the best possible citizen, although, when the state claims God’s authority, we may be condemned as disloyal. However, even our “disloyalty” should be expressed in a manner that is consistent with Scripture’s teaching on authority. It’s a difficult line to walk, but with the Spirit’s help and Scripture as our guide, all things are possible.
Pastor | Trinity Church Brighton
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