So what should be the Christian's response to a government that does things which are not worthy of honour and respect? Do Christians owe the government unconditional respect and honour? Surely Christians cannot submit to government decrees and actions that go against our conscience?
Paul does not expressly state that there are conditions where we can choose not to submit against the government of the day. And it is wise for him to not do so. Because if Paul had made such a proviso for Christians, I can imagine that there would have been no shortage of people who would quickly hijack his statement to justify all sorts of "holy wars". Such is the nature of human beings, that we will grasp at anything to justify our own agenda.
Thank God He gave the fiery-tempered Paul the wisdom of peace! Paul instead upholds Christ's example of submission to earthly authority while maintaining ultimate allegiance to heavenly authority.
When Jesus was brought before Pilate to be questioned, He chose which questions he wanted to answer. He did not argue a case for his innocence. He did not pronounce judgement upon the wicked schemers against Him. In fact, He SUBMITTED to the physical authority of the Romans. In John 19:10-11, it is recorded:
"Do you refuse to speak to me?" Pilate said. "Don't you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?" Jesus answered, "You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above."
Some may say that Jesus acted this way because he was destined to die as a redemption for Mankind's collective sin, therefore he HAD to submit in order to get crucified - it was part of the script. But I believe that this principle is eternal, as can be seen in the book of Daniel written hundreds of years before Jesus was born.
In the book of Daniel, the Israelites had been conquered and exiled from their own country. The Israelite elite were forced to be the servants of King Nebuchadnezzar. They had to submit to a pagan King and serve in the pagan royal household with pagan food and rituals. This went against all Jewish sensibilities as God's own Chosen People, where the very essence of their identity to be set apart and enjoy God's exclusive favour and protection.
But rather than fight back, they submitted to their conquerors, seeing their conquest and exile as punishment wrought by God upon a recalcitrant people.
However, although they submitted to their ruling authorities, they maintained their spiritual purity at some risk to theimselves (read Daniel chapter 1). However in chapter 3, the Israelites in the King's court were faced with a life-or-death choice:
DANIEL Chapter 3:14-1814 and Nebuchadnezzar said to them, "Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up?
15 Now when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes and all kinds of music, if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?"
16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter.
17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king.
18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up."So we can see that while their physical circumstances required them to submit to the physical authorities, they firmly maintained their spiritual allegience and refused to compromise. And in this passage, we can see that the three friends clearly disobeyed the earthly king because he had asked them to violate their allegiance to their heavenly King, even though it would cost them their lives.
So back to the question: what should be the Christian's response to a government that does things which are not worthy of honour and respect? Should Christians still submit to their authority?
Based on Biblical principles and the example set by Christ, the answer would be: YES
And this must be so, otherwise there would be anarchy in the name of Christ! But is submitting to the earthly authorities the same as accepting or supporting them unconditionally?