Thesis: Christians are good citizens of the governments they live under.
1. This coming Tuesday our nation will celebrate Independence Day.
2. The Fourth of July is not a religious holiday, but it does provide the opportunity to reflect on what it means to be a disciple of Jesus and a citizen of a civil government.
3. The gist of NT teaching on the Christian and civil government can be summed up in three words: "Pay! Pray! and Obey!"
I. NT TEACHING: CHRISTIANS & CIVIL GOVERNMENT.
1. Jesus on paying taxes:
a. Jesus' teaching (Matt. 22:15-22).
b. Jesus' example (Matt. 17:24-27).
2. Paul on paying taxes (Rom. 13:1-7).
a. Purpose of gov't: Suppress evil, administer justice.
b. Obedience for us is NOT to avoid fines, going to jail, or receiving a lethal injection--it's because God said OBEY!
c. Pay your taxes!
3. Christians should pay taxes willingly, not begrudgingly.
B. PRAY! (1 Tim. 2:1-2).
1. Thrust of this passage: All kinds of prayer for all kinds of people!
a. Christians are for everybody--even politicians!
b. Christians must not slander government (Titus 3:1-2).
2. Illust. Just prior to Bill Clinton's inauguration in January 1993, a group of prominent evangelical preachers met with him. Began discussing different views, among them homosexuals in the military. Discussion became rather strident. Chuck Swindoll calmed things down when he interrupted and said (words to this effect): "Mr. Clinton, you don't have to worry about bitter opposition from us. We're Christians. We'll be praying for you."
3. What if Christians formed a "political action committee" and didn't lobby/sway voters/raise money/sign petitions/march on Capitol Hill ... just prayed? What do you think would happen?
C. OBEY! (1 Pet. 2:13-17).
1. Neither Peter or Paul qualify this obedience.
a. Are there ever times when we should NOT obey?
b. Yes, but those times are probably few and far between (Cf. Acts 5:29).
c. It is believed that both Romans and 1 Peter were written in the decade of the 60s. Know who the emperor was at that
2. NT writers encourage Christians to be loyal, law-abiding citizens of whatever government they find themselves under ("by doing good ... silence").
II. REFLECTIONS: CHRISTIANS AND CIVIL GOVERNMENT.
A. The primary focus of Christian activity is intended to be spiritual, not political.
1. Some citations from the NT that reflect this truth:
a. "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight ..." (John 18:36).
b. "Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" (Eph. 6:12).
c. "The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds" (2 Cor. 10:4).
2. It is not an accident that the NT reflects very little in the way of political action, other than to command us to be good citizens.
B. There is nothing wrong with Christians being politically active, provided it is in the right spirit.
1. Even though our primary focus is spiritual, there is absolutely nothing to prohibit Christian involvement in politics.
a. We are privileged to live in a democracy.
b. The NT encourages us to be good citizens--being politically active is one expression of that.
2. At the very least Christians ought to be involved enough to vote.
a. Know issues, candidates; national, state, and local.
b. Illust. Christians need to avoid the negative, cynical spirit many have toward gov't. & politics. We think our views don't count, but they do! Did you know:
1) Thomas Jefferson won the presidency by one vote over Aaron Burr when the election was thrown into the House of Representatives?
2) The English language was chosen over German as the official language of the United States in 1775 by a margin of one vote.
3) In 1923 Adolf Hitler won leadership of the Nazi Party in Germany by one vote.
C. The United States of America is the greatest country in the world, but with blessing comes responsibility.
1. "America, America, God shed his grace on thee ..."
2. Our nation has a responsibility to the world--economically, politically, and militarily.
3. We cannot turn our backs on the world, but have been positioned by God to serve the world at this time in human history.
Conclusion: May God help each one of us to be good citizens under the governments he has placed us under!