Many in America have been protesting the Trump presidency. People have lambasted him and the election with virulent attacks on many fronts. Granted, there are times he gives people sticks to beat him with, but it is disappointing that some of the harshest critics and criticisms have come from Christians and ministers of the Gospel, and this is what I will now address.
The Roman government in Jesus’ day was immoral, harsh, with outlandish forced taxes. The peace their subjects lived under was forced upon them by the sword and called the “Pax Romana.” Roman rulers were free to conduct themselves pretty much as they desired and impose taxes at their whim as long as there was no rebellion to the government. The local governors were sovereigns in their province dispensing justice as they willed from imprisonment to execution.
This was the environment Jesus and the early church came into existence under. The question now is, “How are Christians to relate to a government that is deemed to be immoral, anti-Christian, and/or contrary to Christian morality and ethics?” For sake of time and space, I plan to address this question from Scripture with minimal comments (I hope).
Question 1: Did Jesus submit to unfair and or immoral governments?
Matthew 17:24 When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the half-shekel tax went up to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the tax?” 25 He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?” 26 And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. 27 However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.”
(Note: I wish the fish thing was still possible today!)
ASIDE: When Jesus was wrongly arrested and falsely accused of crimes, this was His interaction with the local governor… (He submitted):
Matthew 27:11 Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You have said so.” 12 But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he gave no answer. 13 Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?” 14 But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.
Maybe this is what “Turn the other cheek” and “Love your enemies” looks like…
Question 2: What did Jesus tell others about how to conduct themselves in relation to government?
Luke 3:12 Tax collectors also came to (Jesus to) be baptized and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” 13 And he said to them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.” 14 Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.”
Question 3: How should Christians live under a non-Christian government or one they disagree with?
Romans 13:1 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. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 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, 4 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 (COMMENT: Verse 4 is an affirmation for governments to go to war and impose capital punishment). For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 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.
Question 4: What should Christians do to engage and live in a (Perceived) toxic culture?
1 Timothy 2:1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
Note: The way to oppose unjust governments (And support just governments) is through prayer AND living lives that do not disrupt the community or cause rebellion in others.
Question 5: At the end of the day, how are Christians to live under all governments… regardless of their policies or laws?
Titus 3:1 Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, 2 to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.
1 Peter 2:13 Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. 17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.
NOTE: Ultimately the Christian’s conduct must not bring disrepute on the name of Christ. Thus 1 Timothy 2:2 above.
The title of this post does not mean I think the U.S. government nor POTUS are immoral… it’s called click bait.