1 Peter 3:16-17 – We know that Nero was the emperor at this point, he wasn’t kind to many people under him, Christians and non-christians.
Peter is talking about the Roman government and he tells us a number of things here.
- Obey the government.
- Identify them as God ordained even if they are not Christ-honoring. They are put there for a reason.
- We need to live in a consistent and Christ-honoring way.
- Serve God as well as those God has put in positions of authority
The Christians in Peter’s day couldn’t vote for a new emperor. Even in the time of Constantine, there were very few positions that Christians could have taken in government.
Early writers say that.
– Christians refueled to fight in an army
– Christians fought a war of piety
Over time the church became intertwined with government. As democracy evolved Christians had more and more opportunities to be in places of government.
A son/grandson of independently wealthy merchants, when he was originally elected to the House of Commons. When he was 35 he was converted.
He was counseled by John Newton to continue in parliament and to try to make a difference. He pushed for the ending of the slave trade. He also pushed for fines for too much drinking and other such things.
Prohibition in the US
At the end of the 1800s, some people began to push for the prohibition of alcohol. People spent money they didn’t have on alcohol and did things they wouldn’t normally due while under its influence.
Charles Sheldon in his book, In His Steps, talks of how Jesus would have run for office and would have pushed for prohibition.
Prohibition did reduce the use of alcohol by 50%-60% this decrease was a good thing. It also reduced alcohol-related diseases as well.
Another result was that there was a lot of illegal movement of, and use of, alcohol. There was also a loophole where people could get a prescription for alcohol.
Prohibition couldn’t make people Christians. It may have made them more moral, but it didn’t change people’s hearts.
While we can through laws force our neighbors to clean up the outside of their homes, only God can change their hearts.
What is Christians Responsibility to Government
Romans 13:1-7 – Paul begins here by listing the things that the government does. We know that some governments do these things better than others.
So what are Christians to do in response?
Jeremiah 27:5 – We are to obey those who God has put in a position of authority, not because they are Christian.
Acts 5:29 – There is a place for disobedience when the government asks us to do things that are contrary to the way that God asks us to live.
We are to obey to avoid God’s wrath. God will judge those who do not obey the laws of the land that they live in.
We are to obey for the sake of conscience. In every way that does not inhibit our relationship and obedience with God.
We are to pay taxes. This could just fall under “obey the government,” but Paul and Jesus both talk about it. They both were under Rome, a very “non-Christian” government, yet they both said to pay the taxes.
Finally, we are to pray for our government. It is important for us to pray for our government, and for the governments around the world.
Most of all we should be praying for revival in our hearts and lives, and in the hearts and lives of those around us.
Change happens not when the right laws are put in place but when God changes a heart.
The dangers we focus when we focus too much on politics
Jonah 4 – Hyper Patriotism – We don’t understand at the beginning of the book of Jonah why he didn’t want to go to Nineveh. By the end of the book it is clear that Jonah thought that God should look favorably on Israel, to the exclusion of all others. Does God wish for the redemption of even very evil people? Of course He does!
We can cease to see people as in need of a Savior. The thief on the cross needed the Gospel.
Ephesians 5:15 – There is a tendency to spend time campaigning rather than evangelizing. We all have a limited amount of time.
John 12:20 – We can create antagonistic views in those whose opinions differ from us. Most people only see Jesus in the way that we are Jesus to them.
Matthew 4 – It is Satan’s seduction to tell us that politics is an easier way. Look at the temptations that the devil brought to Jesus. The temptation was Satan saying, “there is an easier way.”
What is our mission statement? How do we best put into place the mission of the Gospel.
The question isn’t how do we make people behave better around us. It is instead, how can I better introduce and show Jesus to those around me. Our focus is not to be on the domination of others.
It is easy to get dragged into the idea that God’s will cannot be done unless the right person is put into power. God’s will is not something that can be circumvented that easily.