Oh yes, this one will raise some eyebrows. At the very least, I hope you will stay with me through a few paragraphs and depart with some helpful insight. I pray God will make that happen. I want to go first to a passage in Romans 13. It is probably one that you have heard or read before. This is what the Apostle Paul writes to the early church, in the midst of the Roman Empire, who greatly persecuted Christian believers: “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore, whoever resists the authority resists the ordinace of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.”
Let’s back up just a bit, from Paul’s writing the Letter of Romans to when Jesus and Peter were together, before the crucifixion. That day’s version of the I.R.S. called on Peter, and Peter didn’t answer the question correctly. Jesus spoke to him about this. You see, the tax collectors had asked Peter if Jesus was going to pay the required “temple” tax. It becomes clear that Peter was uncertain if the One who had cleansed the temple wanted to contribute to it. So he told the collectors that he didn’t think Jesus would pay. Jesus explained to Peter that His followers (disciples; students) were to pay taxes. And to put an exclamation point on His words and teaching — He provided enough temple tax for Himself and Peter through a coin in a fish (Matt.17:24-27).
It wouldn’t be hard to picture Peter giving the coin to the collector, wanting desperately to give an “I don’t agree with all the happenings of this government” speech. Who knows…maybe the thought did cross his mind to share his discontent and anger about this tax and the huge burden of the government. But as we move forward, soon after Jesus’ ascension, this same Peter defies the local government. Didn’t Jesus make His point clear? What happened? Are we allowed to do the same? When?
At Pentecost, many were saved and brought into the body of Christ, the Church, through the ministry of the Holy Spirit Who was now filling and indwelling all who would believe and receive. Peter and the apostles were preaching and teaching to all, publicly. The government wasn’t the only outfit a little aggrevated by this — the religious folks were too. Peter and his friends were “commanded’ to be quiet (see Acts 4). Now, this caused Peter and John to pray differently from the way some of us may have. They prayed, “Lord, look on their threats and give us Your boldness, that we may speak Your Word” (Acts 4:29). Indeed, they were working out the Great Commission and asking for power, from on high, to accomplish it.
The government said one thing. God said another. That’s when we have to make the choice.
They landed themselves in jail, were released by the power and will of God, and immediately went back to preaching. The religious establishment was irate. Furious. They shouted, “Didn’t we not strictly command you to not teach in this name?” And then came the response: “We ought to obey God rather than men” (see Acts 5:28-29). They knew Who to obey and Who to follow. The key is: They knew Who to follow when man’s orders violated God’s holy instructions.
Here are some current examples: Would Peter and John have obeyed the speed limits on horseback? Yes. Would they have paid inflated property taxes on their small living quarters? Yes. Would they have filled out fradulent documents to receive government assistance? No. Would they have said they were unemployed while working under the table? No. Would they have stopped talking about Christ, and His Cross, and His victory and hope because someone told them to? No.
In 1832, Noah Webster stated: “The principles of all genuine liberty and of wise laws and administrations are to be drawn from the Bible and sustained by its authority. The man or woman who weakens or destroys the divine authority may be accessory to all the public disorder which society is dooomed to suffer.” My humble advice with where we are as a nation, as a people, as the Church of Jesus Christ: Let us seek first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness! According to 2 Chronicles 7:14, getting our national ship back on course begins with prayer. Let us humble ourselves…let us pray…let us seek His face. Remember, government and politics will never solve the deepest, most important issues of mankind. There is only One Who can, and does, and will do that!
Be blessed! God is in control!