By Elton Higgs
Along with many other citizens, I’m sitting here the morning after the election trying to sort out where the results leave us as a nation, and especially as Christian citizens. I’m relieved, as are many others, that the long, shabby campaign is finally over and we’re no longer bombarded by political junk mail, phone calls, attack ads, and sleazy discourse. It has been widely stated that this campaign has been more flawed and ignobly pursued than any in living memory, and many are disillusioned as to the future of our democracy.
But perhaps this is a suitable reminder for Christians that nothing in Scripture indicates we are to expect government to do more than maintain public order and curb criminal activity. According to Paul in Romans 13:1-7, The proper response of Christians to governmental authority is submission to it and obedience to its laws.
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.
An additional duty of Christians toward government is stated in 1 Tim 2:1-3: “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made . . . for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”
Certainly submission to civil authorities, abiding by the law, and praying for political leaders are commands as applicable to us as to Christians of the first century; but it is also true that people of God who live in a democratic republic have broader opportunities to influence government than did our brothers and sisters in earlier times, and therefore we have more responsibility as citizens. However, such opportunities and responsibilities can easily tempt us to place more emphasis on our own efforts than on seeking discernment from the Lord as to how to conduct ourselves politically. In response to this or any other election campaign, we should not be elated in pride if the candidate we agree with wins, nor cast down in bitterness if our favored candidate loses. Especially in the aftermath of such a heated and vituperous campaign as we have just seen, Christians need to rededicate themselves to being models of sincere concern for public officials, whether we voted for them or not; and models of mutual respect as we deal with our social and political differences. The best testimony that Christians can give at a time like this is to be agents of healing, rather than strident voices of either self-righteousness in victory or bitterness in defeat.
Image: “election chalkboard” by Jeff Warren. CC License.