Disciples of Christ, Politics, and Government (#1)


I’ve been reflecting on a scriptural perspective on how I should vote.  Exactly what my position should be on major issues, and how politically involved I need to be.  In thinking about many, many things lately, I thought I’d drop this passage in here:

From Romans 13:1Everyone 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. 2Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. 4For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. 6This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

In his much discussed book, Civil Government, David Lipscomb said in 1913:

“Tertullian, who was probably born within a half century after the death of the apostle John, gives this explanation of this saying of the Savior:

    “The image of Caesar which is on the coin is to be given
    to Caesar, and the image of God which is in man is to be
    given to God. Therefore thou must indeed give thy money
    to Caesar, but thyself to God, for what will remain to
    God if all be given to Caesar?”

No better explanation has ever been given of the Savior’s words. It teaches what the Savior taught: pay your tax, but you are not children or servants of the earthly governments. Give your personal service and your bodily powers to God.”

Lipscomb makes powerful, dogmatic statements throughout this book (entirely found online at: http://www.mun.ca/rels/restmov/texts/dlipscomb/civgov.html)  and this topic is far too complex theologically for me to solve in a single post.

This study is a work in progress, and I will continue to vote for those who stand for things closest to God’s word, and to the perpetuation of his church.  But where do Christians jump in?  The lines between citizenship and discipleship have long been blurred, and often confused between federal actions and “God’s will” being done.  Does the evil of radical Islamic terrorism need to stop?  Absolutely.  Does it need to BE stopped by someone who fears good, and respects God?  Yes.  But at what cost?  What is appropriate, and A) what type of leader does the United States need for that role?  B) what role does the disciple of Jesus really have in all of that? 

In Genesis, the Hebrew Joseph (who was given an Egyptian name: Zaphenath Paneah) was sold into slavery by his malicious brothers, through faith, hard work, and intestinal fortitude, and God’s grace, he rose to power and was a true child of God.  He was a citizen of the Lord’s will; always reflecting on what the Lord would have him do, who obeyed his masters and worked very hard to succeed, and God’s glory was lifted up in Joseph’s accomplishments.  Even Pharaoh gave glory to “Joseph’s god” in the process.  To me, that is the role of God’s children in government.  But does the child of God live under a Theocracy, like Joseph must have been – even in his own mind?  What if Christians become “the most powerful man in the free world” as President?  Do he now lead in a manner completely reflected by the will of the people (democracy), or by God (not the people)?

The reason I’m writing this is because of my own struggle with the role of Christians and government.  What in the world are we to do in a world that’s progressed 100 years since Lipscomb wrote his book, and light years in technology, theological development, and archeaology? 

I know what I’m inclined to do.  I’m inclined to vote because I’m a patriotic citizen.  I’m also inclined to have some sort of say in what I believe will become the next leader and effect change.  I want the Kingdom of God to reign first, then on a far lesser plane, the government under which I live.  But only to the degree that it enables the church to continue practice and growth.

More than ever, Christ is needed for His Lordship in the world.  More than ever He needs to be seen in us in kindness, submission, boldness, citizenship, and above all, discipleship to His kingdom, which will in turn effect the nation I am slave to.  How vocal is a God-fearing leader to be in government?  Should the mantle of Political Prowess be worn with a false-impression of God’s approval and a title of “nation under God”?

I look forward to your comments, and your shared wisdom as this progresses!

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