“Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities.  For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.  Therefore he who resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.  For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil.  Do you want to have no fear of authority?  Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good.  But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath upon the one who practices evil.  Wherefore it is necessary to e in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake.  For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing.  Render to al what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.” – Romans 13:1-7

“Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be uncontentious, gentle, showing every consideration for all men.” – Titus 3:1-2

“Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution whether to a king a one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right.  For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men.” – 1st Peter 3:13-15

These two texts are the core of what the bible speaks to in terms of submission to human governments.  Yet I fear many times they are misused and misunderstood used to excuse tyranny, and avoid responsibility for personal action.

Consider these words from the United States Declaration of Independence:

“Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient Causes; and accordingly all Experience hath shewn, that Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while Evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the Forms to which they are accustomed.  But when a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evidences a Design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their Future Security.”

Is there a point where, as the founders of the United States believed, that we have the duty and responsibility to rebel against authorities?  Were the founders wrong and in error?

First, consider that in Paul’s letter to the Romans and Peter’s letter, both talk about the government’s job is to punish evil and protect the good.  And yet in many places throughout history and even to this very day, Christians are being persecuted for simply being Christians.  This hardly can be considered good.  Is there a point when a government gets so evil, so repulsive that Christians have a duty and obligation to openly oppose such a government?  The founders of this country believed there was a point in which that should happen.  I am inclined to believe as such.

Please note, that none of these texts say anything like, “Unless these governments violate the word of God”.  Because of this we must ask the question, what happens when governments state that you cant worship the Christian God.  Indeed may places did and are saying that.  Most Christians I know would say, you must submit to God first, then the government.  If the two conflict with one another, of course you must submit to God and face the consequences from the government.  And yet that is not stated in any of these texts.  We must read into these texts that position.  Why cant we do the same with rebellion against unrighteous, wholly evil governments?

However, for most Americans, that is the past.  Consider now something about the present and future.  At the time of its founding, the United States was unique.  Some called it the “Great American Experiment.”  It was called as such because at the time, no other nation had truly tried a representative democracy free of a monarchy.  Citizens of the United States were given the unique (then, and to a degree still to this day) ability to participate in the functioning of our government.  It truly is, as Lincoln stated, “a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

If we are to take seriously the words of Paul and Timothy, if we are to truly submit to the government, then it stands to reason that we must then participate in a government when we are able to do so.  I submit, that Christians in America, if they are to follow Paul and Peter’s words, need to be active in our governments.  Simply put, they must vote.  Not just in “big” elections like ones for the Presidency, but for primaries, state, and local elections as well.  Far too many Christians avoid participation in our government.  To them, there are “other” things that are more important.  Most use sharing the gospel, and that indeed is a worthy endeavor.  But again, if we are to submit to the government, and in the United States, we are the government, does that not mean we should be active?

Consider that maybe, God gave us the opportunity to be involved in this government for a reason.  Indeed, Paul stated that governments are established by God.  Perhaps, the United States, and the freedoms we enjoy are for a reason.

“But what of oppressive governments?  Are they not instituted by God?” You might ask?  I point you back then to my first point.  Paul tells us that governments are instituted by God to punish evil and protect good.  Without getting involved in a debate over degrees of determinism, perhaps, evil governments are merely allowed (and occasionally used) by God but that Christians have no obligation to submit and follow after such governments.   Further I point to the fact that there are many governments in the world.  Are we to submit to just our own or to all?  What would happen when world governments oppose each other, how should the Christian respond?

I propose that Christians today have the duty to support good governments, and oppose oppressive evil governments.  When possible, we are to do so peacefully; and when necessary (and after all serious considerations to the consequences), to do so with force.  Such force should not be used neglectfully unless such a government risks becoming that which it opposes.

If Christians were to be active in government, either through service or through their votes, imagine what could happen!  The problem today, is that participation in elections is pathetically minor, especially in non-presidential elections.  That is what I believe must change.  I truly fear that if Christians do not start participating in this government, one day it will become something that is completely oppressive and resistant to the Christian faith.  This is something that has happened in other nations and countries in the past.  To believe that it cannot happen here is short sighted.  To believe that Christians should not do anything to prevent that from happening is dangerous.

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