I had the privilege of voting in our provincial election yesterday. Even though the outcome was a far cry from what I had hoped it would be, I’m thankful I live in a country where I have the right to vote. Blood was shed so that people like me could vote and enjoy the many other freedoms we partake of.
Last night as I was pondering the impact this election could have on my province, my friends and my family, I was feeling overwhelmed and…bitter. The newly elected political party is advocating higher taxes, especially for corporations, which could drive thriving business opportunities out of our province. The new premier is advocating some significant changes to our social welfare system which, in my opinion, are a threat not only to Christians, but to anyone who believes in the sanctity of life.
Because of these historical (and unprecedented) election results, my Facebook feed today is covered with “political” commentary. It seems I’m not the only person in my somewhat conservative social circle who is disappointed by the election’s outcome. It’s so easy for people, myself included, to complain about their political leaders. I’m guilty of this, especially today. Some say “You don’t have the right to complain if you don’t vote”, but I wonder, is the inverse also true? Do I have the right to complain because I did vote?
As a Christian, I believe the Bible addresses the issue of obedience to authority in several places:
Romans 13: 1-7 (ESV1) says this: “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.”
1 Peter 2: 13-15 encourages Christians to “Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.”
And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said, “Caesar's.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's” (Matthew 22:20-21).
These are just a few examples of what God’s Word has to say about the responsibility of Christians who are under the authority of fallible, earthly leaders. Regardless of whether or not we like or agree with those in powerful positions, whether in our churches, our cities, or our nations, God still tells His children that they are to be subject to their authority. In his sermon based on Romans 13:1-7, former pastor and author John Piper nicely sums up the reasons Christians are to be obedient to their leaders:
“So the argument of the text is clear. Submit to civil authority 1) because it’s instituted by God, 2) because it is good for you that there is civil authority, 3) because you will get punished if you don’t, and 4) because if you don’t, your conscience will condemn you for breaking the higher moral law of God.” 2
To answer my earlier question regarding whether or not I, as a Christian, have the right to complain about political or spiritual leaders, I advocate that from a Biblical perspective, I don’t. Whether it seems evident or not, God is still LORD over all (1 Chronicles 29: 11). His is the kingdom, the glory, the majesty, and the splendor (1 Chron. 29:10-11). My job is to be obedient to whoever He places in leadership over me, and to do so without grumbling or disputing (Philippians 2:14). My Facebook comments in the past 24 hours are evidence that I have much opportunity to grow in this area. Much.
1 All Scripture in this post is taken from the English Standard Version.
2 Piper, J. (2005.) Subjection to God and Subjection to the State, Part 2 [Online sermon transcription]. Retrieved from http://www.desiringgod.org/sermons/subjection-to-god-and-subjection-to-the-state-part-2