The Christian and Government
Jesus Christ painted vivid pictures of His spiritual Kingdom that His believers belong to as He taught the crowds of people during His time on earth. But as people came to understand what it was like to call on Christ as their own King, they began to have questions about their responsibilities and allegiances to their earthly kings and authorities. Do followers of Jesus Christ continue to have obligations to the earthly authorities over us on this earth? Are we free from any obligation? Do we have to choose one kingdom or the other? Jesus affirmed that yes,
Christians have these obligations toward their earthly governments: Pay, Pray, and Obey.
Pay. Christians have an obligation to pay taxes to their government. This affirmation really rankled the Christians in Jesus' day who had to pay to support the Roman government, which was initially an oppressive regime against Christianity. Matthew 22:21 testifies of Jesus' answer to the Jewish population who despised paying Roman taxes: "And He said to them, "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's."
Even though a Christian may not approve of all the programs or expenditures of their government, the withholding of tax payments is not the avenue they should take to express their disagreement; the Christian is released from sharing moral responsibility of their governments' expenditures with passages like Romans 13:6-7: "For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God's ministers attending continually to this very thing. 7 Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor."
Pray. No leader is exempt from the Christian's duty to pray for them. In the American political rollercoaster, some may earnestly pray for leaders of their political persuasion but find it revolting to pray for leaders on the opposite end of the spectrum. We need Christ's help to get past our political vitriol and react with the attitudes of Christ's Kingdom. Paul taught the churches undergoing suspicion and persecution from their governments to pray for those same leaders who were oppressing them: "Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority..."(1 Timothy 2:1,2).
Obey. The laws and ordinances of federal and local governments should be respected and obeyed; Christians shouldn't suppose that because their highest allegiance is to a heavenly Savior that earthly laws don't apply to them. Romans 13 is the most prescriptive passage of the Christian's duty to their government and states (vs. 1), "Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God." There is no perfect government or political system, but humanity is at its lowest in a state of anarchy. Government is God's divine yet secular institution intended for protection and order in human society. The only spiritual reason for Christian civil disobedience is when their government would instruct Christians to do something in violation of God's laws or principles as laid out in His Word, the Bible.
Romans 13 reminds us that even the oppressive Roman government of Jesus' and Paul's day were to be obeyed and respected because government serves as God's institution of authority and order for human society; American Christians ought to be even more grateful for the protections and freedoms we enjoy and thankful for our leaders who provide a climate of peace for our worship.