(Image courtesy of http://www.spectatornews.com.)

Over the next few posts, I will focus on debatable issues among Christians today; namely, how God wants His people to respond to current political and social issues.  I believe the Bible is the source for all knowledge and truth for any and every time and occasion.  Therefore, by God's Spirit, I will do my best to interpret some of the most difficult passages of the Bible to assist in understanding how Christians are to respond to some of today's most highly debated topics.

The Issue
The first issue we will look at is that of submitting to government.  Many decisions our United States' government enforces are ungodly and immoral, while some are simply preferential differences.  Okaying same-sex marriage, encouraging abortion as a safe alternative to birth, and putting restrictions on Americans' right to bear arms are a few of the numerous legislation inciting anger among the general populous.

The Debate
Is it necessary for Christians to submit to the governing bodies at all times?  If so, was the Revolutionary War a disobedient act toward God?  If it is indeed a sin to unlawfully overthrow a government, then it would seem that those who fought against the British in the 1700s were committing sin against God.

Today, if a God-fearing county clerk refuses to recognize a marriage between two same-sex partners, are they committing sin against God by refusing to obey the government?  After all, the government in the United States' demands that such "marriages" be legitimized, and submitting to those authorities would be obedient unto God, would it not?  (I am being facetious.)

The truth is, we have undergone very little persecution compared to the Jewish believers Paul was writing to in Romans 13.  These Jews were angry by the Roman authority taking over their lives, yet Paul was calling them to submit to them in civil obedience, as long as the decrees from Rome were not in contradiction to God's commands.

Rome had a lot of power.  Caesar Augustus issued a decree that all people return to their hometowns so he could take a census, to help manage the taxes (Luke 2).  And the Jews obeyed.  They had to.  Rome had a lot of authority "given to them by God" (Romans 13:1).  (But remember this: the Roman Empire fell abruptly as a result of their godlessness.  Do you see who really holds the government in His hands?)

In Jesus' time, King Herod had all boys under the age of two slaughtered.  And yet Jesus said to continue to pay the taxes due to the government (Matthew 22:21).  Had Jesus and Paul lost their heads?  How is one supposed to submit to a government that has so much power and infringes on the rights of all people, even babies?

The Biblical Response
How is a Christian to respond, then, to passages like Romans 13:1, "Let every person be subject to the governing authority"?  These are tough passages, but many of Jesus' teachings were considered "hard".

Take the story of Nicodemus, for instance, in John 3.  Jesus tells the Pharisee that no one can enter the kingdom of heaven unless he is born again.  This was impossible in the mind of Nicodemus.  "How can a man enter a second time into his mother's womb?" Nicodemus wondered.  He walked away from Jesus because the teaching was too hard.

But that does not make Jesus' words any less true.

And it does not make the hard teaching that we are to submit to our government any less true either.

I believe that many of the "hard" passages labeled in the Bible are not hard in their interpretation, but only in our surrender to them.  Romans 13 is very clear.  There is nothing confusing about the language Paul uses.  Yet Christians make the comment that this is hard to understand.  On the contrary, it is not hard to understand, but it is difficult to follow.

Romans 13 says that each person is to be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by Him.  Therefore, whoever resists the authorities resist what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment (13:1-2).  There is none who can stand toe-to-toe with God or His anointed.  "But He stands alone, and who can oppose Him?  He does whatever He pleases" (Job 23:13).

To illustrate this point further, let's go to Acts 16 where Paul and Silas are thrown in prison for preaching the Gospel.  The townspeople were mad because Paul had cast out a demon of a slave girl who predicted the future.  The owners of the slave were mad since they had lost their method of earning money, and threw Paul and Silas before the magistrates of the land.  The magistrates tore Paul's and Silas's garments off of them, beat them with rods, inflicted many blows upon them, and threw them into prison (16:16-24).

Paul, a citizen of Rome, had every human reason to be angry with the government.  Yet neither did he retaliate, nor did he incite vengeance upon those who mistreated him.  Instead, "[a]bout midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them..." (16:25).

Elsewhere in the book of Acts, Peter and John are called before the religious rulers and told not to speak any longer of Jesus.  "So [the religious leaders] called [Peter and John] and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.  But Peter and John answered them, 'Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard'" (Acts 4:18-20).

In both of these stories, we see a grand example of our brothers in Christ submitting to authority, yet appealing to God.  They trusted God.  They were content to concern themselves with the kingdom of God and little else.  They did not seek even their own basic rights.  Instead, they submissively acknowledged that God was - and is - in control.

As hard as it is, we must submit ourselves to our government.  Why?  Not because they are acting rightly, but because God is working His redemption through all nations and peoples all the time, everywhere.  Because He commands us to submit ourselves to our government as unto God Himself.

As American Christians, it is easy to become hyper and excited when the media warns us that soon soldiers will be at our door to take away our hunting rifles.  But do you trust God or your guns?  That's the question we must all ask ourselves in this time.

There are, of course, other issues more pressing and urgent that are in direct violation of God's commands.  Never should a Christian sign a document legitimizing same-sex marriage.  And never should a Christian submit themselves to abortion practices.  On these principles, God is very clear.  But when it comes to gun rights, I believe God is clear that we must submit to our government.  The right to own a gun is not the same as murdering babies or condoning same-sex marriage.

In America, I believe we have rested peacefully for too long in the bosom of our governmental rights. The fact is, we were never supposed to feel so at home here in this world. We have replaced God with the United States' government. This is what makes this issue of submitting to the government so hard for us as Christians. We have grown accustomed to our rights and we view it as an unfair infringement upon those rights when laws are passed that go against our freedom of belief.

God does not ask us to understand and reason our way through life.  He asks us to trust Him.  "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight" (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Let us not hold onto our rights as humans more dearly than we hold on to our Savior and Lord.  "They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony.  They did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death" (Revelation 12:11).

I am first a citizen of heaven.  I am second a citizen of this earthly country.

Be strengthened in your walk with Him!  And may the Lord enlighten you with His Holy Spirit, that you may be guided by the light in these dark days.

Submit to government, appeal to God.