God and Country
As a nation, we’ve just elected our President who for the next four years be in charge of setting policies and executing the laws of the land. We’ve also elected governors, senators, and representatives who will be in charge of representing the people they serve making laws that benefit their constituencies and nation. Many judicial appointments will be made in the next four years giving this branch of government the charge of evaluating laws and their implementation. I am proud to be an American and believe the system of government established by our forefathers was a brilliant (if not divinely inspired) system of order and rule. By the grace of God, under the years of good and not-so-good leadership our nation has survived and even thrived in this system of government. I think of the apostles Paul and Peter speaking of government and saying under the inspiration of God,
“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.” (Romans 13:1)
“Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.” (1 Peter 2:13–17)
So here we have our instruction on the days after the elections. Our place is to accept the leadership elected by the people. In accepting this leadership, we are not necessarily agreeing or supporting the positions and policies of the elected. It’s just that God is a God of order (1 Corinthians 14:33) and in God’s order, submission to authority is to be given to those in leadership. If submission to government is expected by God, our allegiance to country was never to be absolute. As Jesus explained in the familiar account, our ultimate allegiance is always to God.
“Later they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus to catch him in his words. They came to him and said, “Teacher, we know you are a man of integrity. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay or shouldn’t we?” But Jesus knew their hypocrisy. “Why are you trying to trap me?” he asked. “Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” They brought the coin, and he asked them, “Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?” “Caesar’s,” they replied. Then Jesus said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” And they were amazed at him.” (Mark 12:13–17)
When people tried to trap Jesus in the question about allegiance to government (even the corrupt and godless government of Rome), Jesus said ‘pay your taxes’. Jesus wants us to know whatever government we are under deserves to be supported. Caesar’s face is on the coin. The government has a right to charge a tax on the services they provide.
“This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.” (Romans 13:6–7)
Notice we are to ‘render unto Caesar’ not just taxes but respect and honor when they are due and (I would suggest) given simply because these governing authorities have been ‘established’ by our Lord. Remember, our Almighty God is on His throne – the control center of the universe. Nothing happens outside His will or permission and that goes for those in our governments and leadership. God makes it clear “He sets up kings and deposes them”.
“He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning.” (Daniel 2:21)
Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” (Mark 12:17). If taxes, respect, honor belong to governing authorities, what belongs to God? Us. Our lives, our existence, our hearts, our trust, our obedience, our allegiance, our everything. Jesus tells us quite clearly that the state has a place in our lives but God is to have our lives.
How might this look – God having our lives? A few thoughts come to mind. A heart looking above and praying for America and our leaders. A heart looking above and praying for your marriages, family, and neighbors. Keep your heart daily connected to the Lord in prayer. If so led, involve yourself in the politics of national, state, or local government with the mission of serving and honoring the Lord in this pursuit. Involve yourself in our community and our neighborhood. Be generous in helping the poor. Be generous in supporting good causes. Stand by those who are treated unfairly. Stand in support those who are doing the right thing. Take action when a need is presented. Take interest in the youth trying to find their way. Visit the lonely and those alone. Give a word of comfort, a letter of encouragement, an email of support, a text of praise to the one the Lord puts in your mind. Ask the Lord to open your eyes to see others in need. Come along side the brokenhearted. Each day determine to do the right thing as best you can. Take the time to invest in your marriage. Take time to invest in your family. Take time to invest in your relationship with Christ. By grace you were saved, and in grace to all we are to live in response. In these ways and more we are to live as citizens in this great nation as a people under God.
Through you may God Bless America!