Respect for Authorities
(Romans 13, John 18, Genesis 41)
Introduction: In the United States, we have important elections coming up this November. Unlike many other democracies, we have only two major political parties. A very interesting fact has come out of the two-party system. Polling shows that Christians who attend church regularly overwhelmingly identify themselves as Republicans. People who do not attend church regularly, or not at all, generally identify themselves as Democrats. This raises some very interesting questions. If the righteous primarily identify with one political party, should this translate into party political activity? Or, is the involvement of religion in politics a bad thing? How does God want us to act when it comes to politics? Does the Bible speak to the issue of Christians and politics? Let's jump into the Bible and find out!
- Who Decides?
- Read Psalms 75:6-7. Who is the ultimate decision maker in elections? Who decides on who is the governor of a country? (God.)
- Read Romans 13:1-2. Who does Paul say decides who rules a country? (God establishes the authority.)
- If God decides who is in charge of a country, what reason is there to vote or be involved in politics?
- Who decides whether a person will go to heaven? (John 5:21-22 - Jesus.)
- Who works on a person's heart to follow God? (John 16:7-8 - The Holy Spirit.)
- If God decides who goes to heaven, and God persuades people to follow Him, what reason is there to be involved in bringing people to God?
- If you say that God decides who goes to heaven, God decides who runs a country, and God is the one who works on a person's heart, then the best thing for you to do is go back to bed, right?
- Let's go back to Romans 13 and read verses 6-7. What does Romans 13:6-7 say about fulfilling our obligations to our government? (It says Christians should fulfill their civic obligations.)
- In a democracy, is there an obligation to vote?
- Is there an obligation to participate in choosing our leaders?
- Read Proverbs 29:2. What should you do if you want to help those around you? (This text tells us that the righteousness of our rulers can have a significant impact on the quality of life.)
- How do you reconcile the need for you to choose righteous rulers when God chooses the ruler? (I think in a democracy this is very much like free-will. God has the power and authority to decide who will rule, but He generally lets us decide. Certainly, we are partners with God in selecting the authorities.)
- Read Proverbs 8:12-16. How do rulers make laws which are just? (According to these verses, they do it by having wisdom.)
- Christian, if you live in a country where you can influence who governs you, and you know that wise, righteous leaders make the country better, do you have a moral obligation to help wise, righteous leaders get elected to office? (I think this means that if we have an opportunity to influence who is the ruler, God wants us to chose righteous rulers. This is part of our civic duty - which like paying taxes is also a moral duty.)
- Read Titus 3:1-2. When we undertake our duty to help select wise and righteous leaders, what should we avoid?
- If we agree that Christians in a democracy have an opportunity and an obligation to support righteous candidates and public officials, how should we show that support? (Titus shows us that we should be honest, polite and humble.)
- Jesus' Example
- Read John 18:33 & 36. The charges laid against Jesus are found in Luke 23:2-3. The Jewish leaders charged Jesus with being a king who is in rebellion against the rules of Rome. Would it have been appropriate, according to Paul, for the human side of Jesus to have rebelled against the Romans? (No.)
- Would your answer change if I told you that the Roman leaders were not wise or righteous?
- Jesus said His Kingdom was not of this world. Why did He say that? (He was fending off the charge that He was rebelling against Rome.)
- This text, "My Kingdom is not of this world" is often used to argue that Christians should not be involved in trying to influence the selection of our leaders. Do you think that is a proper use of this text? (Yes and no. No, because Jesus' followers could change the government only if they revolted. Jesus was not leading an earthly revolt. He made this statement to show these charges were false. In the sense of defending against criminal charges, this text has nothing to do with democracies where people have both the opportunity and the duty to influence the selection of leaders. At the same time, Jesus reminds us that our first calling is to the Kingdom of Heaven and not an earthly kingdom.)
- Read Ephesians 6:11-12. Against what authority is our primary struggle? (Spiritual forces. Jesus' primary struggle was against Satan and his forces, not against the rulers of Rome.)
- If our political positions create conflicts in our church, how should we resolve the conflict? (Jesus' example and Ephesians 6 teach us that our primary citizenship is our citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven. Our primary "political" opponent is Satan. This means that we should not create conflict in our churches over partisan political positions. We should not sacrifice the heavenly for the earthly. At the same time, political issues may involve serious spiritual issues.)
- Real Leaders
- Read Genesis 41:14-16. What positive character trait do we see in Joseph? (He is humble. If we had been in prison, and we got "our break" to show Pharaoh "our stuff," we might not want to mention that God was really the source of our power.)
- Read Genesis 41:38-41. In the verses we skipped over, we learn that Pharaoh had a dream, Joseph's God interpreted it, and told Pharaoh what it meant. It meant that Egypt would ultimately have a famine, and Joseph told Pharaoh how to survive the famine. What position did Joseph now hold in Egypt? (He was the number two guy: he was "prime minister.")
- The famine comes and Egypt is prepared because it followed the advice of God as given to Joseph. Read Genesis 41:56 -42:2. Why did God use Egypt to save His people (Jacob and family) instead of using Jacob and family to save Egypt?
- Why would God promote one of His followers to be a ruler of a pagan country so that the pagan country could save the surrounding nations from starvation? (This is a fascinating issue. God inserts "His man" into a pagan culture to save "His Church" and the surrounding people. The government had resources that were greater than the resources of the church. Although God has the ultimate power and authority, we see from this story that God used the resources of Egypt to do His will.)
- What lesson does this teach us about one aspect of the church and state working together? (God uses the state to do things that He decides can be best done through government.)
- Is the state always evil? Or, is it a tool to be used by God for His righteous purposes? (Remember our first text - Psalms 75:6-7? God is in charge of everything. He decides what and who He will use to further His goals.)
- Friend, if you have the opportunity and ability to influence who governs your country, you have a moral duty to promote righteous and wise leaders. God calls us to serve Him in all aspects of our life. Will you heed His call?
- Next week: Christ's Other Sheep.