May 8, 2004
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Two things happened this week – one in the news and one around lunch after church – that centered on the following question: Should Christians always obey their government?
The first event happened in Canada. The governor general of Canada signed into law a bill adding sexual orientation as a protected category under Canada’s hate-crimes laws. It carries a penalty of up to five years in prison.
Christian groups in Canada claim the new law will penalize public criticism of homosexuality. They fear certain Scriptures will be deemed "hate speech” under the new law. A Saskatchewan man has already been fined by a provincial court for running newspaper ads critical of homosexuality.
If the new law penalizes the public reading of certain Scriptures as “hate speech”, I ask you: if you were a Canadian pastor would you obey such a law? Would you put another entity before God, in violation of the First Commandment? Or, would you disobey the law.
And if such a law were passed down here in Baja Canada, and if you were a pastor, would you obey or disobey the law? Obeying the law would put another entity before God. Disobeying the law would honor God.
If you understand the Bible, you would either disobey the law or encourage your pastor to disobey the law. You would recognize that there is a Higher Authority than the state, and that you are to honor that Authority first. (Daniel 3 & 6; Acts 4:19, 5:29)
The second event occurred at lunch after church. The discussion turned to politics and I – ever the troublemaker – asked the question: should Christians always obey their earthly government? When one girl said yes, I asked her to show me the biblical basis for this. She could not cite a Scripture, so I went to my car and got a Bible. Someone directed her to Hebrews 13:17, which reads as follows:
Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.
Does this mean we should always submit to earthly authority? She evidently thought so. I asked her if Uncle Sam demanded 100 percent of her money in taxes, would she pay them? She said yes, because “it is God’s money and not mine.” Oh really? Then why did God give us the Eighth Commandment, which says “Thou Shalt Not Steal”? Stealing something means that it belonged to someone else to begin with. Earthly governments are subject to God’s laws.
Think about it. If someone stole her purse, was it “God’s purse and not hers”? If her house was torched, was it “God’s house and not hers”? Get a brain, homegirl! It amazes me how people have all these profound thoughts about how things ought to be, until their personal interests are at stake.
Does this Scripture mean:
A slave is someone who labors involuntarily for the benefit of another. And if you believe you should turn over 100 percent of the fruits of your labor to the federal bagman “because your government says so”, you believe in slavery.
The Scriptures are clear: we should not always do as our earthly authorities command. (See the seventh paragraph of this essay.) Jesus was crucified on political charges – i.e. treason – for claiming to be God and therefore being a counterforce to Caesar. Paul wrote several of his letters from Roman jails. John wrote the Book of Revelation while in exile on the island of Patmos. The list goes on.
What does Hebrews 13:17 talk about? Hebrews 13:7-19 talks about spiritual duties rather than political affairs.
Well, yeah, but what about Romans 13? A fair question, that. I am not a Bible scholar, so I am not going to hold forth on whether the King James is the pre-eminent translation. However, have a look at Romans 13:1 in the New International Version:
“Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities.”
Now have a look at Romans 13:1 in the King James:
“Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers.”
“Governing authorities” means the secular powers that be. “Higher powers”, on the other hand, rule over every soul, including the governing authorities. The governing authorities are subject to God’s Judgment to the same extent that you and I are.
If you are a pastor who preaches that Christians should do whatever their government says, shame on you! Either start teaching the truth, or get out of the ministry!
As Christians, our true citizenship is not on this earth. (Philippians 3:20) Jesus’ Kingdom is not of this earth. (John 18:36) Jesus was put to death by people who had "no king but Caesar." (John 19:15) And when you place the demands of the kingdoms of this world ahead of the Kingdom of God, you violate the First Commandment.
To be fair, several generations of pastors – and, in turn, several generations of Christians -- have been lied to about biblical teaching about government. However, whether you are a pastor or a lay person, this does not absolve you of the responsibility of studying what the Bible says about these things.
If you stand for nothing, you will fall for anything. Too many Christians believe Christianity applies only to personal affairs and not to society at large. These Christians will believe anything their government -- or at least their governmental faction of choice -- and its lapdog media says because they nnno longer stand for anything. Physical slavery went out in this country in 1865. Mental slavery is alive and well in 2004.
Many Christians prefer to remain ignorant of biblical teaching about these issues. When I point out what the Bible teaches, they just don’t want to hear it. They would rather seek comfort in a party or a candidate than go to the labor of thinking. Many would rather die than think. One of the slogans of The Party in George Orwell’s 1984 was “Ignorance is Strength.” The more ignorant people were, the easier it was for The Party to maintain its power. The more ignorant people are in contemporary America, the easier it is for those who would tyrannize them to tighten the vise grip. Indeed, a lot of Christians do not even recognize our current form of government for what it is: tyranny.
Lenin had a term for ignorant people who would believe anything his regime said: useful idiots. Because of their ignorance, they offered no resistance. Hence, they were of great value to the Soviet state. Today in America, we have millions of Christians who offer exactly zero resistance to the advancing tyranny being perpetrated by Uncle Sam.
When full-blown persecution of Christians comes to America – and I believe it will – Christians will have no one but themselves to blame. For decades, they have gone right along with the riptide of the modern superstate, never seriously questioning it. To quote the old comic strip character Pogo, "We have met the enemy and he is us." Nothing in life is free. For every "benefit” the state offers, you pay a price either in money or freedom. An omnipotent state will set itself up as a god, persecuting anyone who resists. Will you still mindlessly obey it? Yeah, you. I am talking to you.
Ezekiel 33:6 teaches that God will hold the watchman accountable if he fails to warn of the impending doom. If a Christian swims with the current of his state-worshipping culture, and is in willful denial of coming dangers, God will hold him accountable.
In short, if a Christian believes he should do everything his earthly rulers say, he is brain dead.
Am I being overly hostile? I think not. Jesus was not always nice. Calling people “vipers” is not nice. I am not going to say nice things about people who would enslave me. And I am not going to say nice things about people who would enslave you. If you love your neighbor you will not let him become a slave.
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Freely Speaking: Essays by Doug Newman