“The Christian’s Duty to the State”
First Published: October 5, 2000
In our last week’s column, we observed that there are at least four “Guiding Biblical Principles” for Christian citizenship found in the Scriptures. They are: (1) Recognize that civil government (even secular, anti-Christian civil government) is ordained by God himself for the good of all people [Romans 13:1-7]. (2) Remember the commandment of Christ to “love neighbor and enemies,” especially as it informs our role in society [Matthew 5:43-48]. (3) Take seriously your “Salt and Light” Responsibilities in society [Matt 5:13-16]. (4) Bear in mind your “Stewardship Responsibilities” as they relate to government and society [Genesis 1:28; 1 Corinthians 10:31; 2 Corinthians 10:5], according to God's word and for His glory.
Now every Bible-believing Christian is, of course, interested in obeying the teaching of the Bible as to how we are to relate to and understand the role of the state. We said last time that there are many Scriptures which explicitly address citizenship issues, but six key ones come immediately to mind: Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-17; Matthew 17:24-27; 22:17-21; Titus 3:1; and 1 Timothy 2:1-2. I would challenge you to study these passages and pray through them.
But what does this mean practically for me? What am I supposed to do? Well, if I were to boil down the implications of the above passages for us, Christians living in the third American century, I would make at least the following points.
Our basic requirements as believers are to: (1) submit to (obey!) lawful government authority (Romans 13:1; Titus 3:1; 1 Peter 2:13); (2) acknowledge that God himself ordained government (Romans 13:1); (3) pay your taxes (Romans 13:7; Matthew 22:21); (4) show respect to those in authority (Romans 13:7; 1 Peter 2:17); (5) pray for those in government (1 Timothy 2:1-2); (6) serve in government if called (Daniel 1-6; Esther; 2 Samuel 7; Romans 16:23); and (7) vote! There’s more to say, of course. Much more. But not less.
Peter Lillback (a PCA minister) recently sent out a letter that said: “Did you know that there are many Christians who do not vote in state and national elections? The scriptures are clear as to our responsibilities as Christian citizens. Jesus said, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s” (Matthew 22:21), and the Apostle Paul teaches that “everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established” (Romans 13:1).”
He continues: “Our vote is important! It is critical to the preservation of the freedoms included in our Constitutional heritage which assure personal expression of faith and belief within both the public sphere and the private domain. In his Farewell Address written over two hundred years ago on September 17, 1796, President Washington declared: ‘Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.’”
In light of this, I want to encourage you to vote on November 7th, 2000. The deadline to register to vote is coming up soon! If you have recently moved, or have never registered, or are about to turn 18, make sure you are properly registered.