America has gone through a very bitter election where both sides literally despise one another. Unfortunately, I can’t foresee that changing in the near future. One has won the electoral vote and the other has won the popular vote, but as the law clearly states only the electoral vote counts as to who will be president. I fully understand why so many are angered and feel cheated by our election process. However, Christians have a far greater obligation to obey God rather than man. This means that all faithful Christians must honor whoever has been elected to rule the nation. This doesn’t mean Christians have to believe in the same things whoever is elected president, but it does mean they have to give them their due respect. If a president has committed adultery, Christians must confront them and tell them to repent, even as John did to Herod the King. If a president has sinned which could cause the nation to sin, Christians must oppose him. Even if a nation should elect or appoint the most evil leader imaginable, this doesn’t negate a Christian’s duty to honor him, and yet oppose their evil with the utmost respect. Let the scripture tell you why:
One of the Christian’s obligations to his government is to relinquish to it. “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities,” writes Paul (Rom 13:1). He had further instructed Titus, “Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work” (Tit. 3:1). Peter also instructed, “Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good” (1 Pet. 2:13-14). The Christian is not to try to overthrow the government but to obey the laws of the land. The only exception to this rule is when the government would have us do something contrary to God’s law (Acts 5:29). Then we must obey God rather than the government. So, in spite of whether I might dislike or disagree with the government’s rules, I must submit to them.
Paul says a Christian should also remit taxes to the government. In verses 6-7 he writes, “For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs.” It is a legitimate right of a government to tax its citizens. We may not like the amount of taxes we pay, and we may not like how the government uses the funds it collects, but we still have the obligation to pay those taxes. One may take advantage of the tax breaks the government provides for him, but he has no right to cheat the government out of what belongs to it. Jesus taught that we should render “to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” (Mt. 22:15-22).
One other responsibility the Christian has to the civil authorities is to respect them. Paul continues, “fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor” (13:7). The Roman Caesars were some of the most immoral and cruel people who have ever lived. Yet they were due respect because of the position they held. So today, a civic leader’s conduct may not be respectable, but we can and should still respect the position of authority which he holds. “Honor the king,” Peter says (1 Pet. 2:17).
Why must we submit to the civil government? Paul gives three reasons in our text. The first reason is because of the control of God. Paul affirms, “For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves” (13:1-2). The Bible teaches that God is in control of the nations (Psa. 22:28 ff; Acts 17:26; Rev. 1:5). He rules them with principles of righteousness (Psa. 9:17 f; Prov. 14:34). When one resists the established authorities, it is the same as resisting God, for He established those authorities. Such becomes a serious charge.
We must also submit to the civil forces because of the true charge of civil government. Verses three and four read: “For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of their authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil”.
The basic function of government is twofold: “for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good” (1 Pet. 2:14). In the exercise of its duty to punish the evildoers, the government has the right to use capital punishment. Paul realized this fact when he said concerning himself, “For if I am an offender, or have committed anything worthy of death, I do not object to dying” (Acts 25:11). In such cases the government is only acting as a minister of God to punish the evildoer.
The third reason given is because of conscience’s sake. “Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’s sake” (13:5). To violate our conscience is sin (Rom. 14:23). The conscience is not a perfect guide as one can readily observe from the life of Paul (Acts 23:1). But to constantly go against it will defeat the purpose it has of pricking us when we do wrong. So for this reason we should obey the civil government.
Conclusion: You will see preachers, teachers, and fellow Christians who for the past 8 years mocking, slandering, and demeaning President Obama. Do not do as these do, but do as God commanded you. All these have to answer to God for breaking his commandment. Just because sinners and unfaithful Christians dishonor a leader doesn’t justify you to do the same. Come January 20th of the coming year, America will have a new president. Honor him as your president whether you like him or not. Honor him whether you agree with him or not. Yes, you have the right to oppose his sins and evil deeds, but you don’t have the right to demean him as a person. As citizens, let us live so as to receive praise from our government. When we do have complaints against the laws of our land, let us use the proper channels to express those grievances and not be found in rebellion against the authorities appointed by God. Remember, to honor the king is not a suggestion, but a direct commandment from God.