[Jehoshaphat] appointed judges in the land in all the fortified cities of Judah, city by city, and said to the judges, “Consider what you do, for you judge not for man but for the Lord. He is with you in giving judgment.”1 Chronicles 19:5-6
Love him or hate him – and I’m pretty sure you have either opinion of U.S. President Donald Trump – he is the leader of the United States of America.
There’s no getting around the fact that Christians are also citizens of the world. Specifically, citizens of the countries in which they reside.
And the Word of God has some things to say about this fact.
One of the more clear admonishments of God’s Word about this is in Romans 13.
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 (Romans 13:1-2).
A Lutheran Perspective
For the last five hundred years or so this is also been something that Lutherans have dealt with as well.
Martin Luther wrote:
“You see, therefore, what attitude he must have whose duty it is to discharge the office of judge and sword, namely, to subdue all feelings of fear, love, favor, sympathy, greed, ambition, reputation, life, or death, and to be a simple lover of simple truth and just judgment…. A judge must bear the hatred of many; he must be in peril because of hostility and be tempted by sympathy and gain. He will not be able to overcome these shocks and stand firm unless he looks to God alone.” – Martin Luther, Luther’s Works American Edition Vol. 9, p 163.
A Christian has to wrestle with these two views – being a follower of Jesus and a citizen of the nation they live out their calling in following Jesus.
A little over 2700 years ago, a leader in Israel – King Jehoshaphat (of jumping fame) – admonished the leaders he appointed over God’s people.
They were to serve the people, yes. But they also needed to understand that they were serving God first and foremost.
There were then – as today – varying degrees of success in this endeavor.
What Do We Do?
What do we do as Christians?
First and foremost, we serve our God. He is our ultimate and final authority. Everything we do is ordained by God. Everything we do is to bring God glory.
But also, everything we do is to help our neighbor no matter who that neighbor is.
And to be able to help our neighbor in the best ways possible, God put governments in place to bring as much peace and safety as possible.
Follow the Example of Christ
Jesus submitted to the governing authorities to the point that they didn’t contradict God’s Law and will.
Then Jesus followed God and not man.
We should do the same.
Pray for the governing authorities whether you voted for them or not. And obey the laws of the land unless they contradict God’s Law and will.
And remember this: Jesus Christ died and rose again to give you forgiveness of sins and life everlasting.
Live in that forgiveness. Model that forgiveness even to governing authorities!
Heavenly Father, from You comes all rule and authority over the nations of the world. Graciously regard Your servants, those who make, administer, and judge the laws of this nation, and look in mercy upon all the rulers of the earth. Grant that all who receive authority to punish wrong-doers may do so according to Your command. Enlighten and defend them, and grant them wisdom and understanding that under their peaceable governance Your people may be guarded and directed in righteousness, quietness, and unity. Protect and prolong their lives that we with them may show forth the praise of Your name. In Jesus’ name. Amen.