Thursday, November 20, 2008
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Major elections are always fun living in the city. Every time I find myself driving down the road, I am tempted to read all of the bumper stickers on the cars in front of me. I have seen some duzies. Some make me want to cheer, some make me want to scream. But perhaps my favorite bumper sticker this past election cycle came from another church member. It read, "Jesus ‘08: Lord Come Quickly Before November 4." Chances are, we have found ourselves saying similar things these past few months.
But as everyone already knows, America went to the polls and voted for a new President, a new Congress, new initiatives, and new persons to represent them. Just in summary, here is what took place this election cycle:
- Senator Barack Obama was chosen as the 44th President of the USA.
- Proposition 8 passed in California overturning the California judges disallowing gay marriage. It won with 51.9%.
- Both Florida and Arizona defined marriage as between a man and a woman. In Florida, the initiative passed 62.1%, in Arizona 56%.
- In Arkansas the act "providing that an individual who is cohabitating outside of a valid marriage may not adopt or be a foster parent of a child less than 18 years old," passed 56.2%.
- Colorado, on the other hand, rejected defining a fertilized egg as a person. The pro-life cause lost 73.5%.
- Washington State became the nation’s 2nd state to allow euthanasia - lost 59%
In light of these and other things this past week, what does God think about these things? What does God think about our President? What does God think about our current President? What about Congress, the state legislation, local government etc.? What does the Bible say about Christians and politics? What if our guy isn’t in power? What if persecution comes our way? What if our taxes get raised? What if we disagree with our government?
I want to begin with a few words of caution for Christians engagement with culture and politics. First, the gospel is not spread through politicians or politics. Secondly, Evangelism comes before political involvement. Thirdly, one’s faith soaked in sanctification must be the foundation for one’s politics. Next, a moral culture is not necessarily a redeemed culture. Fifthly, passing laws do not solve the problem of sin. Also, Christians must not wed a political party. This is tempting. Republicans are known to be supported by the "Religious Right." As a result, many Chrisitans criticize such Christians for being wedded to a political party. How do they respond, including the Emerging Church, Liberal Protestants and others? By being wedded to the Democratic party. Both are dangerous. Finally, our hope must be in God who is Sovereign over a nation rather than a politicians given charge over a nation.
With these warnings in mind, we must seek to have a Christian understanding of politics and political involvment. We will not cover every issue this morning, but I believe that with the help of the inspired text, we will come to a correct understanding of how we are to live in a country and in a culture as Christians. If you will, please turn to Romans 13:1-7.
If I were to sum up this text it would be this: Because we are to be submissive to God, we must therefore submit to the institutions He has established such as government authorities. The question then becomes, why should I submit myself to government?
Last week we established that the foundation for Christian faith and morality is our submission to God in all things. Now, we turn to see how our submission to God is played out in our daily lives. And in light of recent events, we turn to our responsibility to submit to ruling authorities.
God has established a number of institutions. The first insitution, which we will look at next week, is the Family. The second institution, which we have been looking at previously, is the Church. Finally, God has established government. All of which involves submission which is rooted in our submission to God.
Let us look at our text. In 13:1-4 we see that WE MUST SEE POLITICS PRIMARILY AS A GOD ISSUE.
In verse 1, Paul tells us that the Christian’s role in politics is primarily a God issue. Paul’s primary concern is for his readers to understand that one’s subjection to government is reflective of their subjection to God. He says first that no authority except from God. That is, God is above all things.
At this point we must briefly pause and think about some of the issues taking place in our culture. This is what is at stake at many of the debates that we have. For example, atheist father Michael Newdow has sued arguing that saying "under God" is a violation of separation of Church and State. The problem here is not with the pledge of allegiance, but what it’s removal implies. A secular society makes government, i.e. man, the ultimate authority. That means, morality, etc. comes from a politician and is subject to a vote or to 1 man’s decree. This is idolatry, a return to the garden: we want to take the place of God.
Paul’s point is clear, if God is above all things, everything falls under His rule and falls into His plan. Nothing takes Him by surprised.
Paul goes on to add authorities that exist are appointed by God, that is, God appoints, man doesn’t. Regardless of what the polls say, or who is crowned the winner, God is the King that places kings. God is the one that sets up Kingdoms, nations, Presidents, and world leaders.
APP The issue here is who will you put all of your hope in: God or Government? If God, then elections will have no affect over your hope and salvation. You will not loose sleep over what happens in this world knowing that God is on His throne in complete control. Your responsibility, then, is to be obedient to Him and leave the rest in His arms. God knows what He is doing. If, however, you put your trust in government, then you will be in constant state of uncertainty and unsure hope. We will find hope only if our guys wins. We will find fear and uncertainty if our guy loses.
Christians are guilty of both oftentimes. We trust God, but we seem to trust a politician more. "If so and so is voted, then America will fall into moral chaos." This might be so, but morality isn’t up for a vote, God has already declared what is moral and what is not. An election is not what deters immorality, the gospel is. We must therefore put our hope in God & the gospel, and then fulfill our role as citizens praying that America will remain obedient to Him. As Paul wrote in Philippians 3:10, "But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ."
In verse 2 Paul tells us that God’s purpose is for government to be an instrument of His judgment & blessings. Verse 2 begins with the word therefore. Friends, always remember when reading Scripture, whenever you see the word "therefore," you need to ask yourself, what is it therefore? This means look at the immediate context.
In light of what Paul has just said about government being primarily a God issue, because government is a institution divinely appointed by God, fully under His sovereign rule, we must submit to that authority. Notice what he says, whoever resists the authorities, resists...God. The issue here to Paul is obedience to God which is played out in obedience to the institutions He established. He then adds, those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. Paul is telling us that government carries out, and is a reflection, of God’s character.
Therefore, resistence is the opposite of submission. It says that I can do it better. Remember last week we discussed how not submitting to God is our way of saying, "If only I were God..." Paul is tellings that whenever we find ourselves saying, "If only I were government...," "If only I were Senator/President/Mayor/Congressman/etc." we are really challenging the Soveriengty and Providence of God. As a result, those who fail to submit to God are subject to His divine wrath. Those who fail to submit to government, too, are subject to judgment.
ISSUE You are probably wonder, does this imply government is perfect? Absolutely not! Here is a list of evil governments throughout Scripture. First, there was Egypt who enslaved God’s people. Second there was Sodom & Gomorrah who allowed abominations to run rampant throughout their land. Third, there was Babylon who destroyed and enslaved God’s people and then blasphemed His name by taking the vessels from the Temple and desecrating them. Next, there was Assyria who conquered and killed God’s chosen people.
And finaly, there was Rome who murdered Christians, including the writer of this Epistle: the apostle Paul. Let us not forget that this letter fits a context and was written by a real person. Paul is not living in a dream state where everything is honky dory. Let us not forget that it was under Roman approval that Jesus Christ was executed. Let us not forget that Paul had been arrested and persecuted under Roman law. Let us not forget that years after the penning of this letter, Paul would, according to tradition, be beheaded for his faith and Peter would be executed because of an evil tyrant named Nero who needed a scapegoat for his own incompetence. Let us not forget the illogical decisions of many of the political leaders in Rome. Nero would have his own mother executed, while other Emperors would name their horse as Senator. And let us not forget who Paul is writing too: those dwelling in Rome. Rome was to the Roman Empire what Washington DC is to America.
Safe to say, losing an election is nothing like the context that Paul finds himself writing in and yet Paul commands us to submit to our governing authorities though they be imperfect.
Are there any perfect governments, you might ask. Yes. Just one. It is called the New Jerusalem. It’s King will be Jesus Christ who will reign in glory and honor. But that kingdom has yet to come. And in the meantime, we anxiously await His reign while living in a imperfect world, run by imperfect people, who have formed imperfect governments. But nonetheless, God calls us to submit. A failure to submit to His established institutions is a failure to submit to Him. Politics is primarily a God issue.
In verse 4, Paul tells us the Christian’s response to government must be obedience. Paul argues that if you want to live a life free from the fear of government, submit yourself to it. At this point, perhaps your asking, is there ever a time I should not submit. Yes. There are two instances.
First, we must not submit/obey whenever government demand we do something that God has commanded us not to do. An example of this in Scripture is of Shadrach, Meshach, Abendego. Remember that they were commanded to do something God told them not to. Therefore, they disobeyed government rather than disobey God.
Secondly, we must not submit/obey whenever government demand we do not do something God has commanded us to do. An example of this is of Peter and John in Acts who after being told not to preach Christ, they responded by saying they would rather obey God than men.
Outside of these two exections, not to submit is to disobey. Every sin is rooted in our failure to submit to God. Every crime, is our failure to submit to government. And our failture to submit to government is tied to our failure to submit to God.
APP Let me ask you, does your heart beat faster whenever you see a policeman while driving? Then your not submitting, therefore you fear. Do you get nervous over your business practices, your taxes, or anything else? The reason isn’t b/c you are not obeying government, but b/c you are not submitting, and thus obeying, God.
Just as we are to fear God when we do wrong, so we too must fear government whenever we do wrong. Why? It is an instrument that reflects God’s righteous acts.
Notice that Paul uses the word sword, in this verse. Paul is essentially warning his readers that if they disobey government, government has been given the authority from God to punish you; including execution. What else do you think he means by sword? Nothing short of capital punishment. The idea here is that both God and government are serious about sin. Submission is a primary issue.
Real quickly, I want us to answer the qustion, what is the Christian understanding of capital punishment? In general, God has given government the authority and approves of it carry out execution. Here are a list of texts:
- Gen. 9:6 - Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God he made man."
- Num. 35:33 - "You shall not pollute the land in which you are; for blood pollutes the land and no expiation can be made for the land for the blood that is shed on it, except by the blood of him who shed it."
- Matt. 26:52 - "Put your sword back into its place, for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword."
- Acts 25:11 - "If then I am a wrongdoer, and have committed anything worthy of death, I do not refuse to die"
Paul doesn’t seek to defend capital punishment in this text, he assumes it. He isn’t debating the issue, but reminds us that disobedience is a failure to submit and submission is a primary issue and a God issue.
The second thing I see in this text is in verses 5-7: WE MUST SUBMIT TO GOVERNMENT IN OUR EVERYDAY LIVES.
Notice against at the word in verse 5: therefore. Because submission to government is not a partisan issue but a God issue, we must therefore live that out in everyday life, not only b/c of wrath but also for conscience sake. Paul, here, reminds us that we must not just obey b/c we fear jail time or paying a ticket, but b/c it is a reflection of our obedience to God.
In verse 6, we see Paul’s exhortation concerning taxes. Because government is a institution divinely appointed by God, we are called to obey them which includes paying taxes. Remember Jesus’ words in Matt. 22:21: "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesars, & to God the things that are God’s?" Jesus is not just saying, "pay taxes and pay tithes," but also, I believe, both are a God issue. He is saying, "pay taxes b/c it is a reflection of one’s obedience to God." Let us not forget the context of that passage: the Pharisees hated Rome and believed that a faithful Jew should not pay taxes to them.
Finally, in verse 7, Paul tells us that submission to government goes beyond paying taxes. He beings by mentioning both taxes, and customs. We know what taxes are, customs are additional taxes on various goods and services. Paul is saying that we must pay taxes to government with the same heart we pay our tithes and offerings to God.
He then goes on to tells us to fear. This is not just fear in the normal sake, which leads to obedience. Although we must do that, especially in light of what Paul has just said. But also, Paul is calling us to have sincere respect for the institution God has established and the leaders God has appointed in our nation.
Finally, Paul calls us to give honor to whom honor is due. By this Paul is calling us to show genuine appreciation that is not fake.
We conclude with this burning question that has been on our mind this week, how are we to respond to the election of President-Elect Barack Obama and everyone else that was elected this past week? Here is what Scripture has to say:
- Fear & Respect Him - Prov. 24:21: "My son, fear the LORD and the king, and do not join with those who do otherwise.
- Submit to Him - 1 Pet. 2:13-17: "Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good...Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king."
- Pray and be Thankful for Him - 1 Tim. 2:1: "Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lad a quit and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence."
- Obey Him - Titus 3:1: "Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work."
In light of what Scripture tells us about politics and the Christian response to government we might find this to be a hard pill to swallow, but God has given us a command: submit to Him and to submit to His established institutions.
Here is hope. Here is change. Here is our future. Yes we can! I am Kyle McDanell and I approve this message!