“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” – Romans 13:1 (NIV)
Historically, the church has participated in a rather tenuous relationship with governing authorities. The Israelites often found themselves in exile under the rule of foreign powers who did not affirm their faith. Early Christians were brutally persecuted by their governments. The Dark Ages flipped the balance of power in favor of the church – which had disastrous consequences to those who tried to challenge the status quo. America was founded by individuals pursuing religious liberty – a chance to worship freely without interference by government agencies.
All of this brings us to the present day where modern Christians continue to struggle with the relationship of the church and government. As always, turning to Scripture brings clarity to this complex issue. Paul writes in Romans 13:1 that everyone should be subject to governing authorities because all authorities in existence have been established by God. Paul does not say that we are to live in fear of authorities or to avoid engaging our political systems. Instead, he advocates for respect and submission. What makes this even more incredible is that Paul wrote this during a time of unprecedented persecution of Christians! These are not idle words – they were written with deep conviction through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Looking to the Old Testament, we see many examples of the benefits of engaging with government. Joseph rises quickly in the political hierarchy of Egypt, which in turn allowed him to save countless individuals, including his family, from starvation. Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego stand up for their faith, survive certain death, and as a result are able to serve as a testament to the glory of the One True God in ancient Babylon. Nehemiah bravely asked the Persian king for permission to rebuild Jerusalem. This led to the restoration of the city and the temple.
As Christians, we are called to follow the examples of the godly leaders who have gone before us. Instead of living in fear, lets engage our culture and become a beacon of light in the darkness that pervades our world. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV) If we live fearlessly and trust in God wholeheartedly, who knows what the impact could be.