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QUESTION: What is the Christian’s relationship to government?
ANSWER: How much should the Christian obey the government? How far should we go (or not go) in submission to government control? While some would take up arms even against our own country, others would allow government to control the curriculum of their school and the qualifications of their teachers under the guise of “obeying Caesar.” Who’s right? We are going to try to address these questions under three categories: our responsibilities, our rights and our resistance.
First, our responsibilities: We have the responsibility to obey government (Romans 13:5). This obedience accomplishes two things. By obeying we (1) avoid punishment and (2) keep a clear conscience. We also have a responsibility to honor government officials (Romans 13:7); pay taxes (Romans 13:7); and pray for our government (1 Tim 2:1-4). Our prayers in this respect will be for (1) a quiet and peaceable life as we live godly and honest lives in the sight of all men and (2) for the salvation of our leaders (cf. v.4).
What about our Rights? In Scripture it seems clear that the Christian may exercise the same constitutional rights as do other citizens. The fact that we are followers of the Lord Jesus does not mean we give up due process or any other legal privilege afforded by the government under which we live. Even Paul, in Acts 25:11, appealed to Caesar. This was his right as a Roman citizen and he exercised it.
Finally, Can we resist our government? What laws must we obey? How? When? This question is becoming more relevant every day. We not only may, but we must disobey government when to obey the government will cause us to disobey the Word of God. Acts 5:29 tells us we are to “obey God rather than man.” OK, then, how are we to resist government when and if the time comes? Can we take up arms? (There are far too many with the militia mindset using Scripture to “prove” their position.) Should we stop paying taxes? Can we march in protest?
A Christian must resist with a good testimony left intact. I have heard many of the arguments used for refusing to pay taxes but they all run into a brick wall at Matthew 22:21. “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's,” seems pretty clear to me. When a Christian does resist, I believe Scripture requires he do so passively. Submission to government is an absolute. That means we either submit to the law or we must submit to the penalty. Paul did defy the government of his day in order to preach the Gospel. However, when he was arrested, he didn’t fight the guards or take up arms. He went to prison cooperatively and (with that testimony) subsequently won many of his guards to Christ…
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