Christian, Your Refusal to Submit to the Government Indicates a Heart Hardened to God
I was a patriot long before I was a believer. I bought the mantras,
“Give me liberty, or give me death.”
“Don’t tread on me.”
“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”
We idolize democracy, embracing government by the people and for the people forsaking the tyranny of oppression. Our nation was born of the crucible of rebellion. Resistance flows through our veins, embedded in our DNA, codified in our governing documents. We hold sacred the inalienable rights of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness and we’ll defend them to the death. Though noble endeavors, I’m just not sure God is complicit.
To the contrary, Paul exhorts the Roman church, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities.” All authority comes from God and any authority that exists has been established or allowed by God. Pay your taxes. Honor and respect your leaders. (Romans 13:1-7)
Paul makes no provision for the type of government. He doesn’t stipulate whether he’s referring to a monarchy, a constitutional republic, or a communist/totalitarian regime. He doesn’t specify. In fact, you’ll fail to find the Bible ever promote any form of government. You won’t find anywhere in the Bible advocacy for democracy.
Be subject. Pay your taxes. This is the Christian duty.
Paul makes no caveat, offers no qualification. He doesn’t say, be in subjection if the government is worthy, be in subjection if the government is godly, if it does what is good. No, Paul says to be in subjection and pay your taxes, without caveat, without qualification.
Lest you think Paul misunderstands, consider the nature of the government in power when Paul wrote these words between 55 and 60 A.D. This is a government that would institute universal persecution against Christians leading to torture, beheadings, crucifixions, and imprisonment. Christians were fed to wild animals for entertainment. This is a government that could command the slaughter of all male children under the age of 2. (Matthew 2) This is a government that could order a universal census, commanding all people to return to their place of birth for registration. (Luke 2) This is the type of government that could bring religious leaders before tribunals and command them to cease preaching and have them beaten and thrown in prison. (Acts 4, 5, 6)
Be in subjection. Pay your taxes.
Paul is later beheaded in Rome for preaching Christ. Let that sink in, Paul is beheaded by the very authorities to whom he commands the church submit.
These same authorities crucify Peter who writes, “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution,” commanding obedience to national and local government, both emperors and governors. (1 Peter 2:13-17) “Honor the emperor,” he exhorts.
Be in subjection, without qualification, without caveat. Pay your taxes.
The idea of submission cuts across the grain of the sinful human heart, confronting our sense of rights and self. Many violently resist the call to submit. Yet, God calls all believers to submit in some way. Submit to your church leaders. Wives, submit to your husbands. Children, submit to your parents. Servants, submit to your masters. (Hebrews 13, Ephesians 5-6, 1 Peter 2)
Submit to the government. Pay your taxes. Honor and respect your leaders.
Our submission is a part of our Christian witness, a testimony, good conduct to display to non-believers the primacy of Christ. (1 Peter 2:12) To live in rebellion is to damage our witness, violating the Christian conscience and as governmental authority is instituted by God, rebellion directly assaults the authority of God and will incur judgment. (Romans 13:2,5)
Our willingness to submit perfectly reflects the condition of our hearts. Refusal to submit indicates that we possess a heart hardened toward God. Zedekiah, the last king of Judah, hardened his heart against the LORD and rebelled against Babylon, the authority of his day. “He did what was evil in the sight of the LORD.” (2 Chronicles 36:12)
Look to the Master. Jesus performed the greatest single act of submission in history, humbling Himself and becoming obedient to the point of death on the cross. (Philippians 2) God calls us to emulate Him in submission, not to shake our collective fist at authority declaring, “I’m no doormat,” a decidedly unbiblical phrase I often hear Christians utter.
Don’t misunderstand. I love this country and would gladly bear the sword once more to defend her from attack. It’s just that, as a citizen of a heavenly Kingdom, I have surrendered all rights to self in submission to the higher call. Do you have the heart of Christ or is your rebellious heart symptomatic of your rebellion against God? Supplant the tree of liberty with the mighty oak of salvation which is watered by nothing less than the blood of the martyrs.
Author - Founder
Soldier, Pastor, Author – Bradford stays busy, with his wife Ami, raising their 9 children, serving the nation, pastoring, preaching, and writing books (#3 is due out October ’17).
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