Tag 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

Greg Boyd on pacifism and government

Sy-mapI posted a link the other day to an article by Greg Boyd discussing what he (a pacifist) would say to the president about Syria. He raised some interesting points. I’m not sure that I’m in full agreement, but they seemed worthy of discussion. Here are some of the main ideas:

The first thing I’ll say is that I don’t believe that being a kingdom pacifist (viz. on who swears off violence out of obedience to Jesus) means that one must embrace the conviction that governments are supposed to embrace pacifism.… I don’t believe Jesus’ and Paul’s teaching on the need for disciples to adopt an enemy-loving, non-violent lifestyle was ever intended to serve as a mandate for how governments are supposed to respond to evil.

The important point for us to see is that Paul forbids disciples to ever engage in the very activity he says God uses governments to accomplish – namely, taking vengeance (ekdikēsis). We are to leave “all vengeance to God,” in other words, and one of the ways God takes “vengeance” is by using sword-wielding governments.

I believe this teaching implies that there are “sword-wielding” offices in government that disciples simply can’t hold. But I think it’s a complete misunderstanding to think that kingdom pacifism entails that disciples should try to get their government to adopt a pacifist position. This is treating the government as if it were the church!

Since our government has (almost) always been committed to the just-war principle that violence should be used only as a last resort, I’d first press him on the question of whether or not we are absolutely certain Assad is guilty of having engaged in the atrocity he is being accused of.

Moreover, I’d encourage Obama to seriously take a careful look at what the long-term fallout of a violent intervention will be. While violence always looks like a solution in the short run, it turns out to only lead to an escalation of violence in the long run.

Finally, if Obama solicited my advice, I’d inquire if all other avenues of resolving this crisis have really been exhausted. Have we exhausted all attempts to achieve a diplomatic solution with Assad? Have we exhausted all attempts to dialogue with him and/or with his allies?

And if Obama answered “yes” to all these questions, I’d ask him if he’d allow me to ask one further, slightly more personal, question: “Brother Obama, as a professing follower of Jesus, how do you reconcile your position as Commander in Chief with your allegiance to Christ?”

I want to explore that final quote a bit more, but first, I’d like to hear your reactions to Boyd’s ideas. Is he right in saying that God wants Christians to act one way and countries another? Is there a difference in what he expects of government leaders and what he expects of ordinary Christians?

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?