Summary: ? As Christians, we are not to feel as if we are not bound by the law and authority of earthly government because we are citizens of another kingdom. Instead, we should demonstrate our respect for the heavenly King by being subject to earthly authority.
Night after night, week after week, and month after month Gregory Dixon Jr., pastor of Indianapolis Baptist Temple, along with other men of the church held a vigil. This wasn’t a typical vigil, however. These men sat up each night drinking coffee, eating donuts, and playing cards. They didn’t gather to pray and fast or remember a lost loved one; rather, they met to keep the doors of their church open. U.S. marshals had been ordered to seize the church according to a court order issued for failing to pay taxes. The pastor and the church were adamant that the government had no right to tax tithes and offerings given to God. In the end, however, the marshals led the members of the church who were participating in the vigil off in handcuffs and chained the doors of the church shut in preparation for auctioning off. Dixon and the other men were willing to sacrifice themselves because they knew they answered to a higher authority than the Internal Revenue Service and the federal courts.
When we become Christians we learn that the old ways we used to have must often change. The ways of the world are not the ways of God. We may find that our perspective on many issues changes. Issues such as promiscuity, casual drug use, or exaggerating the qualities of a product to convince somebody to buy it. The tension one feels is these issues is a natural consequence of salvation. How are we then to respond to our government? Don’t we as Christians have a much higher authority than the men and women who comprise our government? How are we to respond to a government that allows abortions and even subsidizes such procedures for low income people? What are Christians to do when the government allows pornography to be freely accessed in public libraries and on the shelves of convenience and books stores? Who is the authority – God or government? It seems that we, as Christians, must denounce and rebel against such authority that seems so obviously opposed to God.
As Christians we are set apart to do God’s will. We know that in the end, on that final judgment day, we will all have to answer to God. For the most part we know what is right and what is wrong. The Holy Spirit convicts men and women of what is sin and what is righteousness. The problem comes when our government authorities do not have the Holy Spirit to guide them or do not give attention to him. We know there is a vast discrepancy between what God wants from man and what the government wants from man. Isn’t it Christian responsibility to prevent the government from allowing such worldly things to take place? How can we respect an authority who is an open and practicing homosexual when we know that is something God detests.
There are many ways to approach this problem. The Army of God, for example, uses terror and assassination to try to force the government to change the abortion laws. They know that God hates abortion because it is the taking of an innocent life. They believe they are justified in killing doctors who perform abortions to protect the unborn. While their understanding of God’s hatred of abortion is reasonable, God does not call people to murder. He cannot ask a person to break his commandments. There was a Christian group in San Antonio, Texas that peacefully entered a Barnes and Noble book store and began tearing up books that had pictures of nude children in them. The courts had already decided that the pictures, though they portrayed fully nude children from the front, did not constitute pornography because the children were not posed in sexual postures. Once again, the motivation of this group is reasonable and, even though their actions did not harm other people physically, their actions were considered vandalism by the authorities and were not consistent with the Bible’s teaching concerning respect of others’ property. Perhaps simply heckling and jeering public authorities when they make public appearances and speeches is a better way to deal with ungodly authorities. Even though such action is not against the law, it doesn’t fit well with God’s love that Christians are to demonstrate. None of these solutions offer a truly biblical solution.
The real solution to these issues lies not in your acceptance or disagreement with the authorities but in your understanding of and trust in God. When you properly understand God’s sovereignty and trust in his ability to work things out you become less inclined to try to work things out for God. You will also have a better understanding of and respect for authorities, even those who seem very ungodly. It was just such an issue Christians in Rome were facing and about which Paul wrote in his letter to them.