Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Applying Romans 13

Tomorrow we will be looking at Romans 13. A large portion of that chapter is related to living as a citizen. Christians are called to submit to government and political leaders. Although this is at times difficult, Christians are called to submit to one another; even to the government. What follows is an article I wrote regarding living as a Christian in an Obama administration when some policies (such as abortion and homosexuality and other critical issues) contradict our faith.

What Is To Be Our Response? Living as a Christian in an Obama Administration

In just a few minutes, the 44th President of the United States will be sworn into office. The election of Barack Obama is both historical and controversial. But as Christians, it is time that we begin to think how to respond and interact with the next four years. Barack Obama will oppose most of what social conservatives stand for: pro-life, the protection of marriage, the sanctity of life, etc.

I want to offer a few things that Christians must think of as we embark on the next 4 years.


The first and primary thing that Christians are called to do and that is to pray. Paul wrote to Timothy in 1 Timothy. 2:1 saying, "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." It is clear then, that the response of all Christians, regardless of our leader, to make supplications, to give prayers, to interceded, and to give thanks to them.

Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr shows us how to pray on this day. He begins his prayer with:
We know that you and you alone are sovereign; that you rule over all, and that you alone are able to keep and defend us. We know that our times are in your hands, and that "the king's heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord" [Proverbs 21:1]. Our confidence is in you and in you alone. We come before you as a people who acknowledge our constant need for your provision, wisdom, and protection.

Father, we pray today for Barack Obama as he takes office as President of the United States. We pray that you will show the glory of your name in our times and in these days, confounding the wisdom of the wise, thwarting the plans of the arrogant, and vindicating those who do justice and practice righteousness.

Father, we pray with thanksgiving for the gift of government and the grace of civic order. Thank you for giving us rulers and for knowing our need for laws and ordered life together. Thank you for this nation and the blessings we know as its citizens. Thank you for freedoms unprecedented in human history. We understand that these freedoms come with unprecedented opportunities.
As Christians, we must remember that God brings glory to His name through anyone. I am reminded of King Cyrus of Persia and how God describes him as His "anointed one." It was not because Cyrus was righteous or God-fearing, but that God sovereignly used him to fulfill His purposes. Whenever we pray, it is a reminder that we are not the one that decides elections or chooses a president. God, and God alone, does that.


Paul also commands us to submit to government (Rom. 13). On the surface, this is pretty easy to do especially since we have had a pro-life, pro-traditional marriage, openly Christian president. But what about a president in whom we have very little in common with.

First, we must be reminded that Jesus, Paul, and all of the first Christians never had a leader that agreed with them on anything. Even the apologist Justin Martyr pleaded with Caesar that Christians were their greatest ally because they sought peace and obedience, but they were still being killed.

And so as Christians, we are called to submit to the demands of government even whenever we disagree with them (policy speaking). If taxes are raised, we must pay them. If laws are passed, we must obey them. Why? Because God, in His sovereignty and providential care, has given us our President whether we like it or not. Truth is, God couldn't care less what we think. He has given us our President. Period.

But we must make our self clear. We are to submit to God first. Therefore, there are two instances in which submission and obedience to government must not be done. First, we must not submit/obey whenever government demands we do something that God has commanded us not to do. Secondly, we must not submit/obey whenever government demand we do not do something God has commanded us to do.

Scripture gives us a number of instances where believers did not obey (cf. Daniel, his three friends, Peter and John, and others). However, we must not be falsely looking for occasions to disobey. Chances are, none of us will be put in a situation that directly contradicts our submission to God.


Finally (and this is no exhaustive list), we must be willing to engage the new President and Congress. By this I mean that we must hold our government accountable, celebrate when they are right, correct them when they are wrong, while doing it with an attitude of love, grace, compassion, and concern.

This is perhaps the toughest part of being a Christian in a fallen culture. We are called to be light who place our trust in the gospel first and then politics. Oftentimes we confuse the two. We begin with politics thinking that it will bring about the spreading of the gospel. We must not fall for this trap. Christianity does have political implications, as does all worldviews. But we must begin with the heart, not the tax code.


As we begin the journey toward the next four years, let us act as Christians, not as angry Republicans/Democrats/Libertarians/or anything else. We seek to fulfill the Great Commission to the glory of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Furthermore, let us not forget that we live in a dream world compared to the early Church. None of us have faced death in our country because of our faith. That day may come, but until then, let us not forget that though the early Church faced death, they continued to pray, submit, and engage their culture and their government.

We can learn a lot of them. But learning is only part of the equation. We must also live out what God has revealed. So today, let us pray for our new President hoping that God will glorify His name no matter who is sworn in every four years.

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