29 Sep What The Bible Says About Obeying The Government
The Bible provides great insight into so many areas of life, including how to interact with government authorities. As Christians, it is our responsibility to understand how to balance our allegiance to both our Lord and our country. So, what do you do when a law or regulation is in direct contradiction to your beliefs? Does the Bible provide any insight into this topic?
What does the Bible say about obeying the government? Many places throughout Scripture, we learn that we are obligated to obey the government leaders as authority placed over us by God. This holds true whether you agree with their decisions or not. However, when the government is in contradiction to our beliefs, our ultimate allegiance is to Christ.
We are responsible for sending a positive message to the world around us, supporting and praying for government leaders at every level, regardless of their beliefs. So, how do you navigate a law that contradicts your Christian values and beliefs? Are there Biblical examples of this type of civil disobedience? Keep reading to learn more about what the Bible says in response to our obligation to obeying the government.
A Biblical View of Obeying the Government
As Christians, we must view everything through a Biblical lens. This includes our government, laws, and leaders. By understanding how the Bible views obedience to the government, we can establish a better foundation for our faith and how that is played out in everyday life.
Obeying the Government As a Christian
Unsurprisingly, we can learn a lot about government in the Bible. Countless passages cover our responsibility to respect government authority. Here are a few passages that speak to obeying the government as a Christian:
“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval.”
“And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.”
“For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.”
1 Timothy 2:1-4
“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
In these verses, we learn several valuable lessons about obeying the government as a Christian. We first read that, as Christians, we must obey the authorities that are placed over us. However, in the next verse, we see that our ultimate obligation and duty is to God. If the government conflicts with the Bible, we must obey God at all costs.
While our primary obligation is not to earthly government, we must still pay taxes to whom they are owed. Although you may not agree with the way tax money is used in our country, paying taxes is a symbol of our obedience to the authority that has been placed above us.
Finally, we learn that in addition to obeying the government officials over us, we should spend time in prayer for them. From city government to national government, our leaders are under intense amounts of stress. Praying for government leaders who you both agree and disagree with is an excellent way to acknowledge their God-appointed position of leadership.
Obeying the Government When It Contradicts Our Beliefs
Most Christians would agree that obeying the government is part of our responsibility as both believers and as American citizens. However, this can become a problem if the government creates a law or policy that directly contradicts our beliefs. While we are commanded to respect and obey authority, we must refuse to do so if it compromises our religious values.
This is known as civil disobedience. Civil disobedience in this form is an intentional act of disobedience due to a higher conviction. Whether disobeying a civil law or authority, civil disobedience is the best way to stand up for your beliefs.
It is important to understand that the Bible does not condone civil disobedience in situations where your personal preference is the cause of disobedience. However, the Bible does condone civil disobedience in situations where you are required to directly oppose Biblical values or beliefs. When it is in our power to do so, we must seek legal solutions to our problems rather than acting in civil disobedience.
Biblical Examples of Civil Disobedience
Perhaps the most popular example of civil disobedience found in the Bible is the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. This story, found in Daniel 3, tells of three faithful men who refused to bow down in worship to a manmade idol. Although they were threatened with awful punishment, they held firm to their faith and conviction. After refusing to bow to the golden idol in an act of civil disobedience, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were tossed into a furnace.
God honored their faith and saved them from certain death in the flames of the fire. They lived to tell the story of God’s faithfulness and their obedience brought glory to God. However, not all stories of civil disobedience end in this way. It is important to realize that believers all over the world pay the ultimate cost for disobedience to the government.
Most Americans have the privilege of not knowing the true price of civil disobedience. While we continue to face a loss of religious freedoms and rights in our country, we have the privilege to worship freely and hold fast to our beliefs. We must stand our ground to protect our religious rights and freedoms as our country continues to move further away from those foundational values.
Religion and The Government
Since the foundation of our country, there has been a conversation surrounding the intersection of religion and the government. For Christians, it is important to view every area of our lives through a Biblical lens, including the government. However, for others, there is a belief that the government and religion should never intersect.
The first law that was put in place to protect religious freedoms in the United States was the First Amendment written by James Madison. The First Amendment reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Following the ratification of the First Amendment in 1791, there were no significant rulings on government and religion until 1993. In 1993, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) was signed by President Bill Clinton.
This federal law was put in place to protect religious freedoms by restricting the government’s ability to “substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion”. In addition to the federal ruling, 21 states have passed a similar act.
States with their own version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act include the following:
- New Mexico
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
Other states with some form of protection for religious liberties include:
Laws like the Religious Freedom Restoration Act are an important part of maintaining our religious rights and freedoms within our country.
How Does Religion Influence Politics?
As we discussed previously, our Christian beliefs should influence every area of our life, including politics. This is especially relevant in the current political climate. As we approach a presidential election, it is important to carefully assess how candidates at every level will influence the future of religious freedoms in America.
It is our responsibility to uphold and protect the religious freedoms we are so privileged to have so that future generations have the same privilege. By voting and participating in politics at every level, we can influence our country’s leadership for the best. In doing so, we can contribute to a country built on a foundation of equality, liberty, and justice for all. You can learn more about protecting our rights through common sense rules for government here.