Welcome! For those who have come across these words, you are reading the inaugural edition of this blog. It is my hope that, over time, many others will not only find their way here, but will take the opportunity to engage with one another, sharing their understanding of the world and our place in it as servants of God. With that said, my first topic is a timely one considering the continued focus on Washington, after the election of President Trump. No other election within memory has so polarized our nation. As citizens of this great nation we should all be concerned about the direction our country is going in, and we should all exercise our civic duties. However, for those of us who are Christians, where do our responsibilities and loyalties begin and end? According to the Bible is there such a thing as separation of church and state? And, what does that entail? In I Samuel it is recorded:
Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah and said to him, "Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations."
But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, "Give us a king to judge us." And Samuel prayed to the LORD.
And the LORD said to Samuel, "Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them. According to all the deeds that they have done, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking Me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you. Now then, obey their voice; only you shall solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them" (I Samuel 8:4-9).
Until that time God had been sovereign over the nation of Israel. However, ever since Saul was appointed King, God has been out of the business of politics. For those peoples who had already turned their backs to Him He had ordained the institution of government to provide rule, and while His hand is still active in the affairs of men, there is a distinction between His everlasting dominion and the kingdoms of man (Daniel 2:20; 4:17; 4:34-37). This separation of earthly and heavenly realms was echoed by the words and actions of Jesus and His apostles in the New Testament.
When the Jews sought to place Jesus on the throne of Israel he withdrew from their attempts (John 6:15). Jesus had indeed come to establish a kingdom (Matthew 16:28; Mark 1:15), but it was not of this earth, as He explained to Pilate: "My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world" (John 18:36). Earlier in His ministry, when the Pharisees and Herodians had sought to trap Him in His Own words Jesus made this distinction between the heavenly and earthly authorities, when questioned:
And they came and said to Him, "Teacher, we know that You are true and do not care about anyone's opinion. For You are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?"
But, knowing their hypocrisy, He said to them, "Why put Me to the test? Bring Me a denarius and let Me look at it."
And they brought one. And He said to them, "Whose likeness and inscription is this?" They said to Him, "Caesar's."
Jesus said to them, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." And they marveled at him (Mark 12:14-17).
God the Father has given authority to man, via the institution of government, in the physical realm, and authority to Christ His Son, via the church, in the spiritual realm. As Christians we are subjects of Christ’s spiritual kingdom, but what about our loyalties to worldly rulers? To understand our proper view of our relationship to secular powers we need only look at the examples set by the apostle Paul. As a Roman citizen Paul took advantage of every protection the law afforded him when he deemed it necessary (Acts 16:37-40; 22:23-29), while acknowledging the State’s jurisdiction over him, stating:
I am standing before Caesar's tribunal, where I ought to be tried. To the Jews I have done no wrong, as you yourself know very well. If then I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything for which I deserve to die, I do not seek to escape death. But if there is nothing to their charges against me, no one can give me up to them. I appeal to Caesar.
Then Festus, when he had conferred with his council, answered, "To Caesar you have appealed; to Caesar you shall go" (Acts 25:10-12).
In his treatise on government given to the Romans, Paul wrote:
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 (Romans 13:1-7).
According to Paul’s words, Christians, like all other citizens, are bound by the laws of the land and subject to its rulers. While we are to be separate in attitude and behavior (II Corinthians 6:14-18), we are equal as citizens of our nation. In like manner, Peter wrote, “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. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God” (I Peter 2:13-16). We are to be good citizens, not shunning the laws of the land, but setting the example for our fellow man. Moreover, we should go beyond mere obedience for the sake of conformity, and include government officials in our prayers— giving thanks for them, and praying for them, to their benefit, and our own (I Timothy 2:1-4). However, our loyalties should never be manifested in blind obedience. As Christ said, we must “seek first the kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33). Peter and the apostles set the example in Acts 4:17-21:
“But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name." So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.
But Peter and John answered them, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard."
And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people, for all were praising God for what had happened.
As followers of Christ we are to be law-abiding citizens, but there is a line that God has drawn. If we must choose between obeying God or submitting to man, we must stand for God, no matter what the consequences. Paul, and the other apostles were imprisoned and beaten multiple times (Acts 5:40-41; II Corinthians 11:23-25), and eventually many, if not all of them were martyred for the sake of Christ. We must also be determined to do the will of God against all opposition. And, how are we to know when to stand for God, and when to conform to human authority? By knowing the will of God as given to us in His written word. So maybe some of us should spend less time watching CNN or Fox News, or scanning the latest Facebook entries, and a little more time searching God’s word for answers. Like someone once said, “The best citizen is an informed citizen.”
Hi! I'm Roland. I began writing after retiring from the Navy in 2015. I believe that we each should strive to learn from one another, by sharing our thoughts and ideas. As a writer my goal is to help other seekers of truth to find and grow in Christ.