Obey the Government - But not Always - by Jeff Adams - Price of Liberty
Obey the Government - But not Always
By Jeff Adams


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November 05 , 2004

Time and again I've heard fellow Christians use scripture, specifically Romans 13:1-7, to justify submission to the state, regardless of what the state is doing (at least whenever Republicans are in control). In addition, many quote Jesus, in Matthew 22:21, where in response to a question from the Pharisees Jesus says, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's," as justification to accept whatever the government does. This is not just wrong-headed, but a misinterpretation of the Scriptures. As often happens, people take pieces of scripture out of context and don't look at them in conjunction with the scriptures as a whole.

If one was to blindly, unthinkingly accept the referenced scripture above, as presented by advocates of total submission to the state, would you as a Christian follow laws that run counter to God's instructions? Would you follow an unjust law? Just because a government says something is ‘legal' or ‘illegal' doesn't make it biblically acceptable.

If one were to accept the argument that Scripture demands unquestioning submission to the state, how could anyone fault those who obeyed orders to carry out atrocities (such as following brutal orders from Hitler, Stalin, Mao, etc.)? From a worldly perspective, the Nuremburg trials refute the idea of total submission to the state, and reject the concept of ‘I was just following orders.' In truth, as Christians we are called to follow Godly government as long as it is just that: Godly, and doesn't run counter to the laws of God. If a government starts to act in ways that put a believer in conflict between what God calls us to do and what the government calls us to do, then a believer has to submit to the Supreme authority rather than to the flawed earthly authority of a man-made government.

A few months ago I heard a man, who I know to be a very devout Christian, advocate a patriotic spirit among his fellow Christians using Romans 13:1-7. Whether he knew it or not, he was actually advocating nationalism, but cloaked it in patriotism. As part of his ‘call for patriotism,' he talked about the founding fathers and how they fought for our freedoms. It is a contradiction to use the actions of our colonial forefathers to justify loyalty to the government. Especially in conjunction with Romans 13:1-7, as he was employing it, because the founders rebelled against an established government. To say we should, as Christians, obey whatever established government we live under contradicts the actions of the founders (of whom the vast majority were Christians).

As the Bible does not contradict itself, that would mean, based on the logic of my friend's argument, the founders acted in contradiction to their faith. However, I don't believe this to be the case. A simple reading of the Declaration of Independence shows they clearly understood what they were doing, and were relying on their faith as part of the justification for their actions.

In fact, the founders were acting in keeping with Romans 13:1-7 by rebelling against a government that was dishonoring God in how it was dealing with its colonial subjects. We, as Christians, would be acting in accordance with Romans 13:1-7 if we rebelled against a government that violates our written laws (the Constitution), promotes immorality (legalization of pornography, homosexuality, no-fault divorce, same-sex marriage, prostitution, etc.), and attempted to subvert our Christian faith (such as banning public displays of crosses, nativity scenes, the Ten Commandments, public prayer, denied our free exercise of our faith, etc.).

Romans 13:1-7 advocates obedience to God ordained government that looks out for the God-given rights of its citizens. There is no requirement that we submit to the authority of a government that does not honor God (and our government(s) regularly reject the Word of God, even removing the Ten Commandments from public and advocating ideas counter to God's Word).

A case in point: When federal judge Myron Thompson ordered Chief Justice Roy Moore, Chief Justice of the Alabama state Supreme Court, to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments from the state courthouse in Montgomery, Alabama, there were several things wrong with this decision. First, Judge Thompson was passing judgment where he had no authority; an issue that was internal to the state of Alabama. This was clearly a state issue, not a federal issue and it didn't cross state lines. The establishment clause of the first amendment that Judge Thompson was using to justify his decision is a restriction on the federal government, not any state government. Second, there was gross hypocrisy in his decision. The reason for this hypocrisy is because in front of the federal building where Judge Thompson rendered his decision stands a statue of the goddess Themus (the blindfolded lady holding scales and a sword). Is Judge Thompson concerned that the statue in front of his building might be promoting a pagan religion? Obviously not. He's only concerned with the promotion of Christianity. Some would argue the statue is merely a symbol of justice and our rule of law. Well the Ten Commandments is a symbol of the rule of law as well, and is more of a foundation for our legal heritage than Themus.

As Christians we should obey God ordained, Godly government. But also as Christians we should put God's law before any government that doesn't honor God. We should be in total submission to the Father, not to the state. Governments come and go, but He remains eternally. As Christians we would be correct to refuse to submit to a government that no longer honors God. God may have ordained the establishment of the governments of the states and the federal government of the American union, but as those governments turn against God, can they expect to continue to receive His blessing? Would we still be required to submit to their rule? To say ‘yes' is to be contrary to scripture.

I cannot speak for other Christians in America. I can only speak for myself. However, I would implore all Christians in America to follow in the footsteps of Joshua, where he speaks in Joshua 24:14,15 – "Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD ."

Government is a false god, and should not be ‘worshiped' as the path to curing all human afflictions. At best, government is a tool that should be handled with respect for its fearful potential to be abused. For those who still think Romans 13:1-7 requires submission to the state, regardless of its actions, I offer in defense of my position two other pieces of scripture: First, is Daniel 6:7-11 (a legitimate act of disobedience to government), and second, Acts 5:29 where it is written, "Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men." Again, the Bible does not contradict itself. Only those taking scripture out of context contradict themselves.


Jeff Adams

Editor's Note: If you think God established any government, read 1 Samuel 8:10-18. (NIV - Bible Gateway)

Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking him for a king. 11 He said, "This is what the king who will reign over you will do: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. 12 Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. 16 Your menservants and maidservants and the best of your cattle [b] and donkeys he will take for his own use. 17 He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. 18 When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, and the LORD will not answer you in that day."

Everyone should be able to see the parallel here. God gave us individual freedom and responsibility for our lives. For most of recorded history, man has always insisted on slavery instead. He has granted our wishes, and until we repent and throw off this "king", He will not hear us.

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