Something that has been on my mind lately is our (meaning Christians in general) attitude towards our governing authorities. Many times it is so easy to turn on the news and begin to think What an idiot or How can anyone make such stupid decisions or What an awful leader he/she has been or the ever-sarcastic They need to put me in charge… I could do better than this. It can be so easy to demean our leaders with memes we see on Facebook or funny one-liners, but is this what God intended for us when He, lest we forget, brought these people to power? I think instead we need to be careful with our speech in respect and submission to those authorities.
Jesus says in Matthew 12:33-37: “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the Day of Judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
And the author of Hebrews says in 12:14: “Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight the paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled…”
It is important that the love of Christ be evident in our speech and then we give grace to others, just as God has given grace to us. And we must remember that God has brought up the governing authorities over us – whether we like it or even want to believe it or not.
Daniel 2:20-21: “Daniel answered and said,
‘Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,
to whom belong wisdom and might.
He changes times and seasons;
He removes kings and sets up kings;
he gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to those who have understanding…’”
Romans 13:1-7: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.”
The governmental authorities exist because God constructed them. Whether you are happy with the way the government is moving or not, or whether you are happy with the leader in place or not, still the truth remains: God put them in leadership over you. Therefore, you should RESPECT and SUBMIT to them. So lets look at what these two things mean and what they can look like in our lives.
When someone disrespects you, they have insulted you, treated you like you are stupid or that they are or know better than you, or they have talked badly about you whether in front of you or behind your back, or they have kept a record and pointed out every bad decision or mistake you have made. Have you done any of these things towards anyone in a governmental position? We all have.
So what does it look like to respect someone? It means to speak kindly to and about someone, to serve and humble yourself before someone, to encourage and build someone up. When you respect someone, you are careful with your words – especially when you do not agree or are not happy with them. You pray for them, love them, and show them grace. As said earlier, we should show grace to others just as God has shown us grace. And we should forgive just as God has forgiven us (Ephesians 4:31-32; Col. 3:12-17).
Paul gives us an example of this in Romans 13:6-7. Paul tells the Christians that they should not neglect paying taxes to the government, even when they do not believe the government is using it wisely. The ESV Study Bible notes for Romans 13:6-7 say, “So, too, believers are to honor their leaders, even if they are not fully admirable.” It is true that at times Christians have reasons to disobey governmental authorities, but the only time that this is approved is when obeying the governmental authorities means disobeying God (Exodus 1:17, 21; 1 Kings 18:4-16; Est. 4:16; Daniel 3:12-18; Daniel 6:10; Matthew 2:12; Acts 5:29; Hebrews 11:23). God has even commanded people to be leaders in rebellion against governmental authorities to take his people out from under the authority of evil rulers (Exodus 1-14; Judges. 2:16; Hebrews 11:32-34). Although there are reasons, even today (just as there have been for thousands of years, as we can see from the examples above), for disobeying or rebelling against governmental authorities, it should always be done in respect, humbleness, love, and even in hopes and in prayer that the leadership might turn from their evildoing.
Even in times of rebelling against a government, we should refrain from speaking in hatred or bitterness against those in leadership over us. Christians are never told to slander or speak out of bitterness or carelessness, but we are many times commanded to encourage, lift up, pray, and respect those in authority over us. It is my prayer that as Christians, we would be uplifting in speech to our authorities and that we would encourage others to be the same.