Monday, January 18, 2010

What Should Be The Christian's View Of Government?

Many Malaysian Christians are not comfortable having anything to do with politics of the country - going to the extent of not even voting during elections. The reasons for this behaviour is usually along the lines of (1) Almighty God is in total control, therefore the present form of government is His will, (2) we are an insignificant minority, so we've got to be careful not to step on toes lest we lose what freedoms we have, (3) are you so sure that "your side" is "God's side" as well, or is it just a case of "your will" and not "God's will"? (4) politics is such a dirty business I want to have nothing to do with it at all.

There's more but these are the main ones.

The latest controversy regarding the usage of "Allah" has started me thinking a little deeper about how I should approach the politics of this country as a Christian. The Bible does not prescribe any form of Christian government. Neither is there any reports of any Christian governments being formed.

So what should be a Christian's view of government be? The following verses tell us:
ROMANS Chapter 13:1-6
Submission to the Authorities
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.

Consequently, 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.

For 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.

This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing.

Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

It's interesting to note that Romans 13:1-7 was written by Paul during the time of Roman government rule. The Roman government had recently put Jesus Christ to death by crucifixion. Furthermore, the Roman government was known for the viciousness of it's soldiers and Christians were being cruelly and relentlessly persecuted. On top of that, Rome was ruled by an Emperor who was worshipped as a god, which goes against the Christian belief that "for us there is but one God, the Father" (1 Corinthians 8:5-6).

In spite of all this, the Apostle Paul teaches Christians to submit to government because "the authorities that exist have been established by God". In other words, we submit to our government authorities because we recognise that God is the highest authority over all things and He has delegated some of His authority to the present government to represent His justice on earth (
He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer-Romans 13:4).

But is EVERYTHING that the government does a reflection of God's justice?
Do Christians have to submit to EVERYTHING that the government says and does? What if the present government clearly violates God's standards of justice? Where do Christians draw the line?


  1. I think Paul assumed that the Government of the day would be "God's servant to do you good", for "rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong". It's clear that he expects Christians to use their conscience when it comes to how they behave under a government.

  2. Paul could not have been ignorant of Roman govt officers penchant for corruption and cruelty. Yet he made no proviso for clauses that exclude Christians from submitting to authorities. He merely states that Christians should submit...fullstop.

    Of course, there is some clue to be gleaned from the wording of the passage, but I want to be careful of not reading too much into it to justify my own political beliefs.

    But it is incredible for Paul to write such a treatise for submission to secular authorities.

  3. Especially since he was a scholar and a Roman citizen. Paul would be very familiar with Roman ways and also of the official Roman attitude towards Christians - which were surely at odds with Christian belief.