Submission to Government, I. Fighting American Patriotism

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 (Rm. 13:1).

Submission to government is a difficult task for any full-blooded American. For the American has two natural inclinations working against him. First, the American is, as with all other men, a son of Adam and is therefore by nature a son of rebellion. Second, the American by national heritage, is a son of political rebellion, having descended from those who rebelled against the ruling authority of her infancy, viz. England. Therefore, the American is controlled by two rebellious passions: a natural one that rebels against God, and a philosophical and political one that, by social indoctrination, rebels against the governing authorities which God has put into place.

Having come from such a heritage, the American is not only rebellious, but he is unashamedly rebellious. For he has been taught from his youth that he is endowed with certain “inalienable rights,” and when he believes that he is robbed of those rights, that robbery is not merely an injustice that he must endure, but it is his duty to rebel. For this reason, America’s brief history is interpreted in a amiable and cavalier fashion by its citizens, where the “good” citizens of this country rose up against the “evil” despotism of England, and, by God’s favor, defeated and overthrew the despot.

This interpretation of American history is not held only by the unregenerate citizens of this country, but it is also held by a great majority of its Christian citizens, who look upon their country as God’s grace to men, and have justified its past and present actions by the philosophies of men rather than by the oracles of God. Because of America’s standing, in their minds, as a “Christian” nation, its citizens’ actions past and present are irreproachable, since this country has, since its foundation, been about accomplishing the will of God.

This notion of personal supremacy and blind American idealism, however, stands clearly against the clear command given by the apostle Paul to the Roman church. There he writes to Christians, saying, “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” (v. 13:1). Opposed to the American belief that one’s self is the authority and that encroachment upon one’s “inalienable rights” is enough cause for revolution, the apostle commands Christians to submit to their governments without exception.

This lack of exception for submission to governing authorities exists because it is God who has instituted every authority. For regardless of perceived justice or injustice, God has placed political leaders in their place, and to rebel against them is to rebel against God and his order. For this reason, there is no reason too great to revolt against an established order, even taxation without representation. For in doing so, one is more akin to the devil and his revolutionaries, who in the beginning rebelled against God’s established order, than to Christ, who though equal with God, submitted himself to the governing authorities, even unto death on a cross (Php. 2:8).



Categories: Fridy Night Bible Study

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2 replies

  1. Hi Matt! (and the rest of the Friday Night Bible Study)

    Lately, I've been reading a book by Gary Haugen, founder and president of the International Justice Mission, called the "Good News about Injustice." In his book, written largely as a response to his experiences as an international lawyer in Rwanda and the Philippines, Haugen addresses the Christian's call to injustice. I think you'll find that this excerpt compliments, but also challenges, what you have said above…

    "God's severe judgment flows out of his love for the victims of injustice and from the simple fact that injustice is sin. I, in my humanness, have a way of complicating injustice. I can talk about the abuse of power, especially by government officials, as politically immature, excessively authoritarian, bad policy, real politick, and so on. But according to the Bible God takes the abuse of power personally–and he calls it sin. As the prophet Amos declared to the elite of Israel who were abusing their power, 'I know how many are your offense and how great your sins. You oppress the righteous and take bribes and you deprive the power of justice in the courts.' (Amos 5:12).

    ….

    "We are God's hands of mercy and love. Occasions may certainly arise when God intervenes in some utterly supernatural fashion that bypasses all human instruments, but overwhelmingly God chooses to limit himself to those miracles he can perform through people who obedient to his call.

    So it is with justice. When governments and those whom God has placed in authority fail to protect those who are weak, God looks to his people to be his voice of judgment and his hands of rescue. 'So justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter. Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey. The LORD looked and was displeased that there was no justice. He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene' (Isaiah 14-16)."

    Although I would assume it to be on a much lesser level, I do think the same principle of injustice applies to the colonial experience in America under the English rule. Just because the English were "civilized" doesn't mean they didn't commit atrocities. And lets be honest, they don't have a very good track-record of fair treatment concerning their colonies (i.e. India, Australia, and some African nations). If it weren't for the colonial rebellions, ones that I think were certainly justified, we wouldn't have the basic freedoms and representation in government and court today. Although we know that true Freedom derives from Christ, I think basic righteous freedoms, ones that are often at the heart of oppression and violence, are God-given, "unalienable," and worth fighting for. I don't pretend to be a historian or that I have near as much knowledge on the topic as you and many others do, but a lack of representation, heavy taxation, and the abuse of British soldiers towards colonists and their families is oppressive and thus, I believe, is justified. I don't believe our country to be founded on a rebellious nature that is not of God, but more that is energized due to the immense amount of freedom we experience and embrace on a daily basis. For people like Gary Haugen, that very blessing and understanding of a justice-seeking God has led him across the world and freed thousands of slaves, children, and women who experience injustice on a much greater level. And to God be the glory!

    Just something to think about. 🙂 I really enjoyed reading what you wrote and it definitely made me think!

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  2. Thanks, Leah. I really appreciate your well thought out response and for including the contribution from Haugen. I have, since writing this, rethought the general case I presented against the American Revolution and have realized that I committed a generalization that I ought not have.

    That point being that there are two types of people in the world, the Christian and the secular man. The secular man may seek to right what he perceives to be injustices (e.g. the revolutionaries in the American Revolution) in the secular government, and there is little to stop him from revolting apart from the sword of those in power. The Christian, however, is called into a life of submission to whatever government is in power despite was might be perceived to be social injustice. In the case of the American Revolution, though there might have been unjust taxation and no representation, those are not causes upon which a Christian can biblically rebel. The Christian contrarily is called to render under Caesar's what is Caesar's, and to render unto God's what is God's. God's requirement is a peaceful existence in the world (so long as everything but the Gospel is concerned), and therefore not to submit to Caesar (i.e. any government under which we find ourselves) is both to withhold from Caesar what is due him and from God what is due him.

    Jesus exhibited this very thing himself in his own paying of taxes that he was under no obligation to pay. As Christ submitted to the authorities, so should we, recognizing that all that is in this world will burn anyways. We are simply called to endure it till the end.

    Thanks again.:) Grace and peace.

    Like

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