Jesus to Pilate: “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world” (Jn 18:36)
When Pilate told Jesus that the governor could put Him to death, Jesus replied, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above” (Jn 19:11)
“There is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer” (Rom 13:1-4)
Wil was recently required to learn the Preamble to the Constitution and recite it from memory in class. You remember the first words from when you learned the Preamble: “We the people of the United States. . . .” WRONG! It’s not “We the people” . . . it’s “He the God.”
Abraham Lincoln got it wrong, too. At Gettysburg, the Kentuckian said, “Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” There’s no such thing as government “by the people.” Governments “that exist have been instituted by God,” not “by the people.”
Today is officially Washington’s Birthday, more commonly called Presidents’ Day. It’s not just Presidents’ Day, but it’s an election year and I can’t turn on the television without hearing about Clinton and Trump and Cruz and Sanders and the list goes on; my elder son is now registered to vote and can’t wait to vote on Super Tuesday in a couple weeks. It’s tax season, and I’ve been working on getting my tax returns in order. With the combination of Washington’s Birthday, Election Day, and tax season, it seems the right time to talk about the government God has ordained.
There are times I wish the government was far less intrusive in my life. I really wish that my taxes were far lower than they are. When I’m in a hurry, I wish the speed limit sign read “85,” not “70.” Zoning laws prohibited the Dale Ridge church from putting their sign where they wished. We all interact with government in different ways, and I’m confident that I’m not alone in saying I wish government would let me be far more than it does.
I like the idea of a smaller government (I’m a Libertarian at heart), but there are times I really like the government. When my kids ride the school bus, I love the idea that those who pass an unloading school bus pay a hefty fine. I love the fact that President George H. W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act – I have access to buildings and services I otherwise would not have. When I’m awarded my Social Security Disability, I’ll be grateful. We all interact with government in different ways, and I’m confident that I’m not alone in saying I’m thankful the government provides some necessary services.
You have political views, and I have political views. My wife and I can have some interesting discussions over politics, for our ideologies differ a good bit anymore. That’s fine – opinions are like heads; everyone has one. Instead of offering a political ideology, I want to remind us of some important truths as this country prepares to vote for our next President.
God is our ultimate King.
“The Lord our God the Almighty reigns” (Rev 19:6). Whoever wins the election in November will govern under a God who is King of all the nations.
God raises and lowers leaders.
“The Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will” (Dan 4:32). Daniel told Belshazzar, “The Most High God gave Nebuchadnezzar your father kingship and greatness and glory and majesty” (Dan 5:18); God took the kingdom from Belshazzar the very night Daniel uttered those words. “There is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (Rom 13:1). No vote, no military campaign, and no United Nations resolution can change the fact that God raises and lowers leaders; if God has decreed that a certain man or woman shall be a leader, no vote, no war, no power in all the earth can keep God from fulfilling His purpose, whether or not you and I understand. Ahab learned that lesson, Nebuchadnezzar learned that lesson, Belshazzar learned that lesson, and other leaders throughout history learned that lesson.
God judges nations.
Ask the Northern Kingdom as Assyria comes knocking at their door if God judges the nations; go ahead and ask the Southern Kingdom as the Babylonians carry them off to captivity if God judges the nations. You’re also free to ask the Roman Empire about God’s judgment upon the nations: “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! She has become a dwelling place for demons, a haunt for every unclean spirit, a haunt for every unclean bird, a haunt for every unclean and detestable beast” (Rev 18:2); Rome – called Babylon – fell because she dared to defy the will of the Almighty. Regardless of the evil in today’s government, there is coming a day when all “the dead, great and small” shall stand before the Great Throne (Rev 20:12).
God expects His people to honor elected officials.
“Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed” (Rom 13:7); in the context of Romans 13, respect and honor are to be given to governmental authorities. “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor” (1 Pet 2:17). I fear many of God’s people fail miserably when it comes to honoring the President and other elected officials. I’ve heard racial jokes about President Obama, and I have heard jokes that went waaaaaaaay over the line. God’s people need to do better. We must never forget Paul and Peter knew far worse leaders than we have ever known, and their message was one of respect.
God expects His people to obey the government.
“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities” (Rom 13:1). “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good” (1 Pet 2:13-14). Yes, there’s the caveat that we obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29); however, we otherwise are expected to obey the elected leaders.
God expects His people to pray for those in authority.
“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Tim 2:1-2). What would happen if we prayed more and complained less? Maybe it’s time we find out!
I don’t know about you, but I find great comfort in the truths I’ve shared today. I’m not paying a bit of attention to the Presidential campaign; I know the names of some people who are running, but that’s about the extent of my knowledge. I’m not paying attention because I know God is ultimately in control. I know that He’ll have the last say. I know that all of history is moving to the consummation of all things in Christ. There is my hope!