Some people see the government as a necessary evil. Government prevents anarchy, but it’s best to keep government as small as possible. Others believe that government is the best hope of social change. It needs money, power, and opportunity to make society better. Chances are you fall somewhere between these two positions. But have you ever wondered what God thinks about government? The Bible has some important truths to teach us about our responsibility to our government, no matter what our politics are.
Respecting the government honors God
Everyone complains about the government, and often with good reason. However, the Bible says that we must understand the role government plays in our lives.
Romans 13:1-2 Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished.
Many Americans like to question authority, which isn’t a bad thing. Yet the Bible reminds us that we have to respect authority, and that sometimes means submitting to it. The first Christians lived under the Roman Empire and many evil emperors. God told them that they still had a responsibility to follow the law and pay their taxes (Romans 13:7). As long as a law doesn’t contradict God’s law, we have a responsibility to obey it.
Live for the good of your community
Over the centuries, some Christians have acted like this world doesn’t really matter. They have focused so much on the future that they forget that God wants us to make a difference in our society today. In Jeremiah 29:5-7, God sent a message to the Jewish exiles living in Babylon. Part of the letter reads:
Jeremiah 29:7 And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.
God places us in cities and towns for the good of that place. A city or nation should be a better place because of the Christians who live there. When this happens, it gives God glory. Is your community a better place because of your presence and the presence of your church?
Pray for the leaders you like and don’t like
God asks all of us to do one simple, but challenging, thing: pray for our leaders.
1 Timothy 2:1-2 I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.
This command was probably a surprise for the first Christians who heard it. It was a command to pray for the evil emperor and those who persecuted Christians. Today, it’s a command to pray for every politician locally and nationally, even the ones we didn’t vote for and don’t like.
Live out your real citizenship
Most Christians are too earthly minded. One Bible teacher said, “The kingdom of God isn’t going to arrive on Air Force One.” Many Christians have looked to a political figure as a savior, but the Bible reminds us of where to find our ultimate hope.
Philippians 3:20 But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior.
No matter what happens in an election or with a government, Christians understand that their hope is in God. This means that Christians should never freak out when an election doesn’t go their way. Political leaders can do some good, but the problem of human sin isn’t something that government can fix. The ultimate hope is Jesus Christ.
[Related: When to Break the Law (Acts 5:29)]
- Watch the video together or invite someone to summarize the topic.
- What is your initial reaction to this video? Do you disagree with any of it? What jumped out at you?
- How did you feel the first time you got to vote in an election? How have your feelings about voting changed since that moment?
- Read Romans 13:1-2. Why does God say that obeying those in authority is important?
- How can you legitimately criticize those in power while still showing them respect?
- Read Jeremiah 29:7. How good is your church or small group at working for “peace and prosperity” of your city? Explain your answer.
- Read Philippians 3:20. What does it mean to be a citizen of heaven? How does the truth that Jesus is returning change the way we live today?
- List the dangers of turning a politician or a political party into a savior?
- After hearing this message, do you think Christians can keep their political lives and religious lives totally separate? Why or why not?
- Read 1 Timothy 2:1-2. Take some time to pray for the leaders of your country and community.
- Write a personal action step based on this conversation.