Category Archives: Government

Honoring those in authority

Most of us are aware that the New Testament talks about respecting authority, honoring the king, etc. Christians were not to be disrespectful to those in power. I don’t feel that that principle has changed, though the specifics may have. (We don’t have a king, but I think the principle about honoring rulers remains)

What I’m wondering about is this: how far are we to take that? We are to be respectful to all people, but I think there’s a greater honor due to those in power. Does that mean all elected officials? All government officials? Anyone with authority (like security guards, flight attendants, etc.)?

In a democracy like ours, must we show equal honor to all three branches? To all levels: national, state, country, city, and others?

How do you apply this principle? To whom do we show honor? What does this honor and respect look like?

I’d like to hear your thoughts.

Separating church from state in marriage

statue of justiceLast week I listed which I had given in a sermon. Since then, I’ve been taking a look at each affirmation, one by one. We’re up to the fifth:

Christian marriage and civil marriage are not the same

This is a concept that I’ve discussed before. I’ve also discussed what it would be like if the church had more control over divorce.

I just think we need to keep in mind that just because the government determines that a marriage has begun or ended, that doesn’t mean that the church has to agree. We don’t depend on judges and politicians to define for us what is and what isn’t marriage.

As I stated last week:

Christian marriage and civil marriage are not the same. They often occur at the same time in this country, but they aren’t the same. That’s why the government doesn’t involve the church in divorces. Much of the political wrangling about marriage has to do with property rights, not spiritual realities. No judge can tell the church what is and what isn’t marriage.

Personally, I’d love to see us use a system that is in place in many countries around the world, where the civil ceremony and the religious ceremony are completely separate one from the other. Until then, it’s just a matter of us remembering this affirmation.

Affirmation #5: Christian marriage and civil marriage are not the same

photo courtesy of Morgue File

Questions about respecting the king

I’ve got questions, questions about respecting authority and respecting authorities.

  • At what point would Christians be justified in rising up in armed revolt against an existing government?
  • To what degree can Christians resist and oppose a government they view as evil?
  • Does “respect the king” leave room for us to speak about governing officials in insulting ways? Does that command apply today? Does it apply beyond a head of state?

Thanks for your input!

Speaking up when it’s too late

Several experiences over the last few days have reminded me of some terrible injustices, both past and present. Last week, Carolina and I visited the Hermitage, Andrew Jackson’s home, and were reminded to what degree the prosperity of the United States came at the expense of the Native Americans and African slaves.

Yesterday I was reading an article about the internment camps here in the United States during World War II. I wasn’t aware that immigration laws at that time did not allow Japanese immigrants to become citizens. Many of them, when asked to renounce their allegiance to Japan, refused to do so out of fear of losing the only citizenship available to them. And they ended up confined to camps during the war.

I recently read of the impact that harsh immigration laws are having on outreach to Hispanics here in the United States. I’ve long considered our immigration laws to be completely unjust, and I’ve wondered what the Christian response should be to such laws.

Looking back, I realize that Christians too often react too late to injustices. Now we recognize the horrors of what was done to the Native Americans. Now we decry the outrage of slavery, now we reject the racism of the past. Today we abhor the WWII internment camps, though continue to call those that created them “the greatest generation.” Kind of reminds me of Jesus’ words:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your father” (Matthew 23:29–33)

At what point would we look at a current situation and say, “This isn’t right”? I hear Christians claim that we will submit to the government unless we feel that it goes against God’s law. Yet we can look at these things from the past that were clearly wrong, and the church in general did not stand up against these injustices. What would it take to get us to say “No” to wrongs committed against those without power in our society?

Or will we do content ourselves to let future generations lament our mistakes?

Maybe the early Christians were right after all

Photo by Ove Tøpfer; from Stock Xchange

Excellent discussion yesterday. I’m always hoping for a little push back. That helps me sharpen my thinking and test my ideas.

I want to try and further explore yesterday’s topics, based on some of the discussion:

  1. There are real limitations to saying, “I don’t see _____ in the New Testament.” I do recognize that. But I expect what we do today to at least fall in line with what is in the Bible, to not run counter to the examples there (Francis Chan has an interesting video that talks about this). And if we feel the need to circumvent some biblical teaching, I’d like at least a hint that early Christians saw it the same way. There is a prohibition of eating certain things in Acts 15, yet we have several passages that seem to say that all foods are lawful for us. That’s the sort of thing I’m looking for.
  2. Our situation is different today, with Christians representing such a large percentage of the population of many nations. Does that change how we view God’s teachings? I’m asking as much as anything. I’m wrestling through that one. Here are some thoughts:
    1. As Christians, we are called to give primary loyalty to the Kingdom of God. Even as a Roman citizen, I don’t get a picture of Paul looking to promote the interests of Rome. If Christians come to “power” within a certain country, their actions should be guided not just by what is best for that country, but by what is best for the world in general. That would be a political nightmare here in the United States.
    2. As Christians, we are to live by Christian principles at all times. Imagine what that would look like in governing a country. When negotiating with other countries, we would look to serve them, trying to meet their needs. We would return all land that we have taken from other countries, be it through war, be it through intimidation. Wars would be limited, if not eliminated. There is no way a Christian nation would be in a constant state of war for 70 years.
    3. To some degree, our governments are set up to rival much of what God does. Like the men of Babel, humans today look to band together and make a name for themselves, looking to find in one another what they should be seeking from God. I’m still trying to work out in my head how Christians can effectively be a part of that. I haven’t figured it out.
    4. Even where our situation differs, our dependence on God can’t change. We can’t put our trust in horses and chariots. We need to find the courage to imitate the Christians in Acts 12, despite the scorn and ridicule of brothers who choose not to do so. We need to be willing to let nations rise and fall when necessary, to trust God even when He raises up an Assyria or a Babylon to do His will. We need to be willing to honor Caesar even when Caesar is evil. Honor, but not worship.

OK, them’s my thoughts. I’m sure today the good ideas will be in the comments, as they were yesterday.