I’m saddened when reading some of the responses of my Christian brothers and sisters to recent and current political events in this country. Many have been similar in tone to the opposition of “our” president over the past four years, in a sort of ‘eye for an eye’ manner. I freely admit to being conflicted by this whole situation because there are some legitimate issues with the incoming administration of a moral nature that cannot be conscientiously supported by people of faith who seek to be devoted to God’s instruction. How should Christians respond?
I want to approach this discussion as humbly as I can, and do so with no small amount of trepidation. I want it to be understood I pose these questions sincerely, not to judge others or present an attitude of self-righteousness. These are questions and issues with which I earnestly wrestle myself. If we are to be acceptable to God it is imperative we determine what he requires of us in these times. I contend the answer is not simple but can be found.
It would be appropriate to begin with some underlying assumptions. Whether or not you agree with them probably determines how you choose to deal with the current situation. They should be a common base of agreement and belief for all Christians.
- God is powerful and wise enough to order and control all events which happen on this earth. In other words, He is still in charge even when it doesn’t appear to be the case.
- God occasionally uses powers and kingdoms antagonistic to him to bring about the results he desires. See: Assyrians, Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians.
- God promises judgment will fall on those who rebel against His sovereignty and violate His statutes, and has in the past brought the destruction of kingdoms and empires.
- God’s expectation for his people, the church, is full surrender and devotion to Him, obedience to His commands, and trust in His purposes and timing.
There are many scriptures in the New Testament which address how we are to relate to authorities and enemies. Those who support the activities, behaviors, attitudes and beliefs in contradiction to and violation of God’s word as written are called the enemies of God. But before we declare a Holy Crusade against them, we recall the words of Jesus to his followers in the Sermon on the Mount: “You have heard it said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” – Matthew 5:43-44 (CSB). Just prior to that Jesus tells them not to resist an evildoer, but respond to them by giving more of yourself. We need a change of perspective to realize those who are opposed to us, sometimes violently, are as much one of God’s creatures as we are, and are therefore subject to the same grace and forgiveness as we enjoy if they will accept it.
Paul had much to say on these things as well. At the end of chapter 12 of the book of Romans, he writes this:
“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Give careful thought to what is honorable in everyone’s eyes. If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for God’s wrath, because it is written, Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay, says the Lord. But If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink. For in so doing you will be heaping fiery coals on his head. Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good.”Romans 12:17-21 (CSB)
Paul then addresses how we are to respond to governmental authority, in what has been a hotly contested passage for centuries. He tells his readers, “Let everyone submit to the governing authorities, since there is no authority except from God. So then, the one who resists authority is opposing God’s command, and those who oppose it will bring judgment on themselves.” – Romans 13:1,2 (CSB). Lest anyone immediately object that this refers only to “good” governments, remember Paul is writing this during the rule of the Roman Empire, one of the cruelest, most oppressive governments to ever exist. These verses contain no qualifiers. The next few verses continue the thought, stating our submission is for our “conscience”, and that we are to pay our obligations to everyone: taxes to those we owe taxes, tolls to whom we owe tolls, respect to those we owe respect, and honor to those we owe honor (v. 7).
It is time we remember our dual citizenship and begin to consider our citizenship in the kingdom of God as primary. How do our actions, words, and attitudes reflect on THAT citizenship? Do we consider it as of first importance, taking priority over our earthly existence? We are to conduct ourselves in all things and all ways so as to glorify and honor God. We must ask ourselves if our response to the election and new government accomplishes that goal, or if we are acting and speaking in ways that bring reproach. Are we willing to “suffer the loss of all things for the sake of Christ”, if necessary? While we are to submit to authority, we are at the same time guided by a higher principle. As Peter answered the Jewish authorities when commanded to stop preaching about Jesus: “Whether it’s right in the sight of God for us to listen to you rather to God, you decide” (Acts 4:19). We are to be at peace with all as much as possible, but the higher principle is invoked when we’re called upon to obey an order which is in direct violation of God’s word. Obedience to God takes precedence no matter the cost to ourselves.
From my own few observations of the current situation, it seems unlikely we will overcome the evil tendencies of this current government through political or legal means. The best the opposition of this administration can hope for is perhaps a stalling tactic to slow its momentum. Violent opposition will only be met with violence, and many currently in power have openly expressed a desire to once and for all eradicate any opposition. So how do we proceed?
Christians in modern day America act as though we don’t believe God is all-powerful and in control of all things. We utilize our most potent weapon but don’t seem to believe in its effectiveness. We give lip service to praying for our country as we are commanded to do, and ask for restoration to a nation that at least respects God. How many have faith that God can actually accomplish it? What if God has something entirely different in mind? This country, and by association all of her citizens, have the blood of millions of aborted children on its hands. Those in position of influence promote all sorts of perversions specifically condemned in the Bible, and call them “good”. They openly mock and berate those who attempt to speak out against any of these things. In looking back through the Old Testament at the nations God destroyed and His reasons for doing so, how can we honestly believe we are any different from them? We are subject to God’s judgment; is it possible that the time has come?
If we as Christians are to make any difference in this nation and hope to change its trajectory, we need to begin with a long, hard look at ourselves as individuals and as the church. Do we compare favorably with what we see in the New Testament? Do our lives reflect the holiness that God demands? Are we truly the “peculiar people” spoken of by Peter, or would it be difficult to pick us out of a crowd? Are we truly living as disciples of Christ? Jesus calls us to follow Him, and that path leads to death. If we aren’t willing to put our own desires to death daily and surrender to the Lordship of Jesus we cannot be his disciples. Until we become a perfectly reflected image of Him when the world looks at us, we will remain largely impotent in our efforts to effect positive change.
We need to stop fighting the wrong battles. This is not a political struggle, it is a spiritual struggle to the death, and we’ve been using the wrong weapons. Paul gave us the key in Romans 12: “Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.” Do you love your enemies, pray for them, resist the urge to respond to their hatred in kind? Another of our most potent weapons is love, honest, pure love. Love for one another, love for our enemies, love for our neighbors which includes everyone and anyone. Love for God that is so consuming as to make us willing to do anything to please him, to give up everything in order to have a deeper, more intimate relationship with Him. The world is clamoring for a love like that. If we wish to counteract the evils destroying this country, showing love and sharing the message of hope and reconciliation in the Gospel is our best approach.
Second Chronicles 7:14 is a verse that is frequently quoted but misapplied: “and my people, who bear my name, humble themselves, pray and seek my face, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.” That’s Israel to whom God is speaking. We like to apply it to the United States of America. But if it applies to anyone today, God is speaking of us, the church. If the healing of our land is still possible God’s people, the church, will first need to do these things, purify and rededicate themselves to God, and seek again to be His holy possession. That’s where we start. We need to once again become salt and light. We need to speak God’s truth boldly, but with love. We must speak out against evil and our lives must be consistent with our message. Then we will have the power of God behind us against which evil cannot stand.