Must A Christian Be Obedient To Government?
Must a Christian be obedient to the government under which he lives?
This is an important question, particularly in these times, when the government under which we live is becoming increasingly critical of foundational Christian values and commitments. It is entirely possible that the day will soon come when what we believe and practice as Christians will be in violation of the laws of the land.
The Apostle Peter instructs us that we should “submit [ourselves] for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme human authority, or to governors who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and commend those who do right” (1 Pet. 2:13-14). Peter goes on to say, “Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil” (v. 16). Ultimately, we are not bound to human authorities. Our authority is a superior authority, it is Christ himself. We ought to live in this freedom, but we must not use this freedom as an excuse for disobeying the law. To do so would be to discredit our witness to the very authority of Christ that we have been charged to give testimony about. It is clear from this passage, then, that we should respect our human governments, and do our utmost to live in obedience to them. God has vested human governors with authority and we should respect that authority. Peter completes his thought, saying, “Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king” (v. 17).
While the fact that we are ultimately under God’s authority should compel us to respect and obey the human authorities who are over us, that same fact will sometimes require our disobedience. Again, Peter, along with John, made this clear in Acts 4, when they were commanded by the religious authorities not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus. They replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Ac. 4:19-20). Our first allegiance, then, is to God. When human authority, then, is in conflict with God’s authority, we must obey God rather than men. This is in keeping with Jesus’ teaching: “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” (Mk. 12:17).
Pastor Jon EnrightJune 5, 2015