Monday, June 09, 2008

Walking with God during the Silly Season

The presidential election race has been referred to as the "silly season." It's not a bad name--it often feels pretty ridiculous as reporters, pundits and partisan bloggers watch the candidates' every move and pick ever smaller nits. And I find myself getting caught up in it, because I'm a political junkie and because I think this election is really important. We are making decisions that could have a profound effect on both the security of our country and the direction of our culture. But it's easy to let things go too far.

The sermon last night at church was based on I Peter 3:13-17 (copied from Bible Gateway):
13 Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15 For it is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. 16 Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. 17 Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.
First, note what this passage doesn't say. It does NOT say, of course, that we Christians shouldn't participate in politics at all. Obviously I believe that we should work to represent Godly values in the public square, or I wouldn't be writing this. We can and should vote, discuss issues, and be informed citizens while supporting candidates who are in line with our values. We should also be really thankful we live in a democracy where we can worship freely and have an impact on the political system!

What the passage DOES say is that God wants us to submit ourselves to the earthly authority of our government. It doesn't give any exceptions--it doesn't say that we don't have to submit if we think the president is misguided, or wants to raise our taxes, or makes a national security decision we disagree with. Even if we think the authorities are wrong, we are still supposed to respect them--and ordinary citizens on the other side of the aisle--because it is God's will.

Another passage on a similar theme is Romans 13:1-7. In fact, Romans is even clearer: "Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves" (13:1-2).

Note that there is a slight contrast in the passage in Acts 4:15-21 where the Jewish Sanhedrin tries to order Peter and John not to speak in Jesus' name--basically, they are ordered not to share the Gospel. Peter and John 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" (4:19-20). This incident would suggest that we don't have to submit to the government if they are actually ordering us to personally take some action that contradicts God's laws. But in all other things, it seems pretty clear we still owe respect and submission.

Wow, that is something I am really going to have to work on remembering for the next few months.

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