The Christian and Government (6 Parts)

The Christian and Government Series: Part 1 – Understanding the Christian

By Rev. Robert Fleischmann, National Director, Christian Life Resources

It seems that every 100 years or so the relationship between Christians and their government becomes strained. In the middle 1700s Christians wrestled with the tension between obeying the government and wanting their independence. In the middle 1800s the hot topic was slavery and regional autonomy. In the 1900s the hot button issues touched the heart of moral sensibilities, such as abortion rights, the sexual revolution or gay rights. While Christians have always had to wrestle with their relationship with their government, it just seems as though hot issues put it all to the test.

Issues that surround these tensions are often embroiled in emotion. The rhetoric runs high, actions and statements are often extreme, and objective truths become clouded. For that reason it is important that we begin this series with a necessary review of the fundamentals. The first fundamental is understanding what and who a Christian is.

Perhaps you are insulted that the question has to even be asked. The sad reality, however, is that the answer is not as apparent to everyone as you might think. Some have called themselves “Christian” because they ascribe to the moral teachings of Christ. Others consider themselves “Christian” by virtue of their membership in a church. Still others believe they are Christian but don’t really know what it means. If you don’t know what it means to be a Christian you are going to have trouble understanding the proper relationship that exists between a Christian and the government.

The term “Christian” is found three times in the Bible. The first is when Paul and Barnabas were preaching and teaching in Antioch. They were proclaiming “the good news about the Lord Jesus.” That “good news” was simply that “Jesus was the Christ.” “Christ” is another word for “Messiah” or “Anointed One.” Jesus was the One promised by God to deliver people from their sins. He was not simply a bold preacher, a moral teacher or cherished martyr. He was the Messiah who had come to take away the sins of the world. Without Him there would be no salvation. Without Him there would be no hope after death. Without Him there could only be punishment for sin, namely damnation in hell.

That was the message Paul, Barnabas and the disciples were spreading throughout the region. Jesus is the Christ. He came, He lived the perfect life, and paid the price for our sins and is now in heaven where He prepares an eternal home for all believers. So when Paul and Barnabas traveled into Antioch we are told: “The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch” (Acts 11:26).

The other two references provide further insight into the understanding of what it means to be a Christian. As Paul stood before King Agrippa to talk about the “controversial” things he was saying, we are told Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?” (Acts 26:28).

Agrippa understood the magnitude of what it meant to be a Christian, even if he did not understand how one became a Christian. Paul pointed out frequently that being a Christian is not a matter of choice but is the result of being “called” by God. Nevertheless, even King Agrippa knew being a Christian was a conversion of epic proportions.

Finally, the Apostle Peter used the term “Christian” when he wrote, “However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.” As King Agrippa saw that becoming a Christian meant a big change had to take place in his life, Peter illustrates that in adversity it is worth it. In fact, Peter’s reference presupposes that being a Christian may actually cause suffering to come your way. If so, praise God because you have been recognized as a Christian.

Often today people parcel out their Christianity. Some consider it to be a deeply private thing which is internally present but has little or no external manifestation. In contrast, some think being a Christian is simply doing “Christian” things. Still others will think being a Christian is simply the external affiliation with a Christian church, Christian organization or friendship with other Christians. But that is not the teaching of Scripture.

Being a follower of Christ begins with the internal conviction (we call it “faith”) that because of sin we have alienated ourselves from our Creator. Left in sin our fate upon death is eternal damnation. Yet we are convinced that God sent the promised Savior (the “Messiah” or “Christ”) who is his Son, Jesus. He lived the perfect life we are to live. He paid the complete price for our sins (abandoned by God and death), and he rose victorious from the grave. We are saved not because of what we did but because of what he did for us. This does result in changes.

Faith often exists even without understanding. The child boldly professes believing in Jesus as the Savior yet often understands little of what it means. Nevertheless, that mustard seed of faith saves. As time passes and a child is raised in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, that child comes to understand the devastating nature of sin and the incredible steps God took to save us from sin. When that truth begins to sink in, it has to bring about change. Something of that magnitude cannot help but change a person.

The Apostle Paul illustrates the kind of change which takes place: “You must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in the knowledge and image of its Creator…Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which bind them all together in perfect unity” (Colossians 3:8-10, 12-14). By following these directives we are fulfilling the responsibility to do all things for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).

These changes emanate from within you as a result of what God did for you through Jesus Christ. That sequence is important to keep in mind because it reflects the proper priority. God brings you to faith in Jesus as your Savior from sin (we call that “justification”). Changing our lives to conform to the will of God comes next (we call that “sanctification”). Putting away the sinful lifestyle and adopting a lifestyle of compassion may seem fine, but if it lacks the element of faith in Christ as the Savior it does not resolve the eternal problem of sin. Without faith it is not pleasing to God (Hebrews 11:6).

That is why the prominent directive for Christians that is directed toward others is not to make them more moral or change their lifestyle, but to be an instrument in changing their heart. The directive is clear: “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 29:19). Paul reminds us that in this life we are to “shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life” (Philippians 2:15).

A Christian, living his faith, will always be concerned about the physical well-being of others. That is a natural result of having faith. His focus, however, never waivers from the true mission he has from God, to evangelize souls. The Christian’s premier concern is to spread the message of salvation. God uses that message as He sees fit. It is His tool for the converting of hearts. Our role is to be the messengers.

When considering our relationship with the government we must frame that relationship carefully within the context of who we are.

We are lost and condemned creatures purchased and won by Christ. We were lost but now are found. Eyes that were blind now see God as the source from whom all blessings flow. Whether we are talking about the Christian’s relationship with government, with neighbors or family members, it can only be viewed from the perspective of our calling to evangelize the world and to reflect our faith with acts of love, compassion and humility readily acknowledging that without Christ we are lost forever.

 

The Christian and Government (Part 2): Understanding the Government

By Rev. Robert Fleischmann, National Director, Christian Life Resources

Editor’s Note: This series is the 2nd of 6 articles entitled, “The Christian and Government.”

In this context I wish to apply a more tightly defined concept of government. I refer to government as an institution in which one or some “govern” or rule over others. I intentionally used the word “institution” because of the particular focus of this series. It is our intent to examine how a Christian relates with the “institution” called government. We readily acknowledge that governing or authority relationships also exist between bosses and employees, husbands and wives, or teachers and students. Our desire, however, it to examine government as the organized rule over a collection of people. Those people may comprise an empire, a nation, region, village, or tribe.

Government Begins With God

There is a government that is not of this world. It is the government of the heavenly realms. It is described by King David in this way (Psalm 103:20-21): “Praise the Lord, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word. Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts, you his servants who do his will.”

We understand that in heaven God exercises absolute authority. He directs His angels who assist him in the care of all creation.

This rule, however, goes outside of the heavenly realms and is also a rule over all the earth. We are told (1 Chronicles 29:11): “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all.”

In the perfect splendor of pre-fall Eden, we see God’s rule in the creation of paradise and his communion with the created. He walked in the garden and directed man who, in turn, had dominion over all things under him.

The fall into sin, however, changed man but did not change God’s government over all things. Passages of Scripture which speak of God’s rule over heaven and earth were authored after the fall into sin. As the Creator, God is also the Ruler of all things.

Government Is Established By God

While government was begun by God in the heavens, its institution on earth occured at the will of God. The Apostle Paul tells us (Romans 13:1): “Everyone 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.

Scripture goes a step further in stating a relationship between government and God. Just a few verses later in Romans we read (Romans 13:6): “This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants who give their full time to governing.”

Government of Man Over Man

Scripture does not identify a definitive moment when “government” was instituted or begun on earth. It is difficult to see it in the first ten chapters of Scripture. We presume it was there prior to the flood. It is hard to image some form of structure did not exist. But, we must admit, Scripture is silent about it.

It is not until we get to Genesis 11 that we find our first hint of an organzied government. It is the familiar account of the tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-4). The project seemed to be consensus driven. While not all governments rely on a consensus for operation, consensus does suggest a certain built-in protocol or organization that has been adopted to get things done for the presumed benefit of the whole. In other words, the existence of government is inferred in this account but not yet explicitly stated.

The first clear reference to an organized gorvernment comes in Genesis 12 when Abram and his wife Sarai travel into Egypt and a Pharaoh is mentioned (Genesis 12:11-15).

Pharaoh was the head of the Egyptian government in Biblical times. That society was deeply religious though their religion focused on just about anything but the true God. Their religion permeated their governmental structure and at the head of it was Pharaoh.

It is clear that God does not hand pick all governments. Neither the leaders at Babel nor in Egypt seemed all that concerned about executing the wishes of the true God and their ultimate governing leader. Nevertheless, government existed.

Forms of Government

It is difficult to discuss government without being distracted by the forms of government. In the United States we live in a republic in which leadership, for the most part, falls upon those chosen by the majority of the people. This appears to be a much different means of governing than we have revealed in Scripture. There we find, for awhile, that God ruled His people directly. This was called a theocratic rule. In time the people asked for a king and that king was chosen by God. It was Saul.

As the generations passed we see references of some leaders chosen by the people and others who simply inherit the positions. There were good leaders and bad leaders. Some were fair and some were ruthless.

Different forms of government afford the people different forms of input into the governing process. These forms of input are tools for us to both correct an erring government and to conduct our lives of obedience to both God and the governing authorities.

In the end we must observe that while God established the institution of government, He did not establish its form. Requirements of governing authorities to act as God’s servants and for those being ruled to obey the government applied regardless of its form. While we might be convinced by familiarity that a demorcratic republic is the best government, it is an issue incidental to the requirements established by God.

Governing and Responsibility

To be established by God suggests a two-fold responsibility. First, there is a responsibility of those who govern to do so as God’s servants. They are, in fact, called such by God. As governing servants demand obedience from those they govern, so also are they to be obedient to their leader, namely God (see Hebrews 13:17).

The second responsibility falls to those being governed. We are to treat those who govern us as servants of God. This does not preclude us from exposing error in the government or refusing to sin upon command of the government (see Luke 3:14, 19 and Acts 5:29).

A parallel that may help in understanding the line between respect and rejection of error can be found with our responsibility toward our parents. We are commanded to “honor our father and mother.” Simply put, we are to obey and respect them. Yet, we must also reject their errors. The responsibility to respect them, however, remains. such is also the case with the government.

God Rules Despite Man’s Rejection

Whether we talk of Babel or Egypt as the first evidence of government referenced in the Bible, one thing is clear, governments, though established by God, are not necessarily God-pleasing.

God’s authority as the governing head over all things is regardless of it being accepted or aknowledged. As there were some angels who rejected God’s authority and now exist in hell, so also do some people and nations on the earth reject God’s authority. It is important to remember however, acceptance or rejection does not change the fundamental reality that God is head over all.

Imperfect Governing

The challenge that faces a Christian is when the government is not acting as God’s servants. We will address this topic with greater detail and more focus in the subsequent articles of this series, but a few words can be mentioned here.

There are erring governments. Since the fall into sin, perfection on earth has been gone. The Bible is full of accounts of erring governments. In fact, most of the clear directives we have in Scripture concerning our relationship with the government were written by the Apostle Paul who lived under such an erring government.

Governments are institutions made up of sinful people governing sinful people. Some governments are completely godless. Those who govern reject God so it is not surprising that they feel no sense of allegience to obey God. Even governments that are ruled by Christians are imperfect. The sinfulness of all people makes for na imperfect government.

In the articles to come we will tackle some of the hard questions about obedience to governments who clearly are doing contrary to God’s will. For now, however, we must bear in mind the true nature of governments. They are established by God and worthy of our respect. Nevertheless, they are imperfect managed by imperfect people, Christian and otherwise. As such they will commit errors and need to be educated and reminded when they do err.

 

The Christian and Government Series: Part 3 – The Relationship Between the Two

By Rev. Robert Fleischmann, National Director, Christian Life Resources

Editor’s Note: This series is the 3rd of 6 articles entitled, “The Christian and Government.”

The previous series article pointed out that there are many forms of government. As citizens of the United States, we Americans usually argue that a democracy or republic is the best form of government. On the other end of the spectrum we would consider communism or dictatorships to be the worst. As you delve into the topic of the relationship between Christians and government, you will readily note that governments vary and change, but the relationship Christians have with their government is consistent as guided by Scripture.

As with any topic, Christians need to seek out God’s will and direction. For some, especially those who are strong critics of our governing leaders today, God’s directives might be hard to accept. Yet when you recall the various government leaders this world has had, you will see situations that have direct application for us today.

Separation of Church and State

This often quoted phrase has its roots in American government more so than in Christian teaching. The government’s duty is to protect its citizens, offer civil services, make laws, collect taxes and so forth. The Church is commanded to preach the Gospel. In the eyes of our founding fathers, these two were so distinct that they wanted to ensure the government would not interfere with the church’s work. From our history books we learn that those early patriots were afraid of repeating the fate of England’s government and church. Yet, when we turn to God’s Word, there are no directives that command such a separation, yet there is clear acknowledgment of the distinction.

Scripture gives us two distinct scenarios regarding the involvement of God’s people in government. The first is a nation led by believers. The Old Testament gives us many examples in which God’s people were directly involved in the lives of the governing authorities. Samuel counseled Saul and David. Isaiah and the other prophets communicated regularly with the kings. Ezra, as he left Babylon to head for Jerusalem, gave a clear directive for establishing a government that would be obedient to God’s will (Ezra 7:25,26).

In each of these cases, the men of God were able to give godly advice and guidance to government leaders. When the leaders listened, the country prospered. When they rejected the will of God, they suffered the consequences.

The second scenario represents a government that makes no pretension of being Christian. The New Testament is filled with examples. The teachings of Jesus and the writings of the apostles reflect relationships with heathen governments. Jesus did not ignore the government, but rather spoke of obedience even when the government was unfair. You see, Jesus was not concerned about changing government, but rather with the changing of hearts. He knew that paying taxes was a legal requirement for a citizen, but not an action that accomplished his ministry. Matthew records two examples from the life of Jesus that speak directly to this issue. The first describes the miracle of getting the temple tax money from the mouth of a fish (Matthew 17:27). The second is the well-known challenge from the Pharisees of whether to pay taxes to Caesar or not (Matthew 22:21). In both cases, Jesus was not separating from the government, but He did distinguish a distinct responsibility we have to the government.

The same is true for Christians today. We must serve Christ faithfully as members of his kingdom and at the same time acknowledge that we cannot remove ourselves from our country’s citizenship.

Distinction Between Church and State

Since Christians are planted firmly in both worlds, it is necessary to realize that you cannot separate the two. It is better to define the relationship between the two entities by discussing the distinctions. Christians need to follow God’s clear directives to spread the Gospel. Matthew ended his Gospel by stating, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). When fulfilling this command, Christians routinely use the benefits that are provided through their government. Roads that are provided by the government allow you to travel to worship. We take advantage of the postal service to send mailings. We use our freedoms to establish and maintain churches and schools. The support we give our government comes back to us in civil services like police and fire protection. These governmental benefits do not preach the Gospel for us, but they make the task easier if we use them effectively.

This does not mean that we expect the government to assist us in winning souls for Christ. Those who look for government to help spread the Gospel are mixing up the two realms. It is not God’s will, nor the government’s to confuse this issue.

Using Our Gifts to Serve

Does this mean we should stay out of government activity and concentrate only on our mission as Christians? Not necessarily. God has blessed every Christian with certain spiritual gifts. Paul explained that well in his letter to the Romans (Romans 12:6-8). Those who are strong in leadership or service roles can use those gifts in government. Those who have specific ministry gifts, such as preaching or teaching, should use them in the church. Regardless of the setting, evaluate your God-given talents and determine where you can use them most effectively.

To expand on this concept read Paul’s words to Titus: “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men” (Titus 3:1). We already know that obedience to God’s Word is commanded in our everyday lives. Here we are reminded that accepting the authority of the government is part of that obedience. How does obedience to the government fulfill our duty of sharing the message of salvation? Peter answers that question, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men; whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men . . . live as servants of God” (1 Peter 2:13-17). God’s Word promises that your Christian living will provide te opportunity to reflect the love of Christ and open doors for the presentation of the Gospel.

Distinction Between “Church” and Christians

Churches by their nature and design are not suited to spend time on political or government matters. In fact, national laws often forbid, or at least limit, such activity. Individual Christians, however, are not bound by the same restrictions. The Bible tells of many men and women who served faithfully in governments. Joseph became second in command in Egypt. Esther was the wife of King Xerxes and had an influence in his decisions. Daniel was a key adviser to King Nebuchadnezzar and King Darius. These examples all tell of a believer under the rule of a heathen nation and leader. Yet, the possibilities allowed these believers to provide faithful witnesses. Christians today have similar opportunities. Be a worker who is faithful and hard working for his/her employer (Colossians 3:23). If the employer happens to be a government agency, the obligations do not change. A faithful Christian will work to improve the governmental services that are provided. What better opportunity to reflect the love of Christ than in a government that oversees programs which are meant to serve and assist.

One other issue must be addressed. You have likely complained about the evil influences of government, the liberal humanism that goes unchecked and the gross abuse of money and power. If those accusations are correct, then what better way to remedy the problems than by delving into the process and effecting change directly. Don’t encourage the youth to avoid jobs in those “liberal occupations.” Over the years, strong Christians have served in government positions and made a difference. We need to see more and more faithful believers use their opportunities to witness to the truth of God’s Word. Your responsibility is to find areas in which you can serve. If you are not blessed with those gifts, find other talented Christians who have the God-given ability and unique desire to serve and then encourage them to make a difference. Be the salt of the earth and the light in the world that God has commanded you to be (Matthew 5:13-16).

As is likely obvious, any time you place a person into two kingdoms, you get questions and conflicts. It is a daily struggle for Christians to meet their legal obligations as citizens and also fulfill their God-given command to spread his Word. Our next article will look at solutions for solving those conflicts.

Does this mean we should stay out of government activity and concentrate only on our mission as Christians? Not necessarily. God has blessed every Christian with certain spiritual gifts. Paul explained that well in his letter to the Romans (Romans 12:6-8). Those who are strong in leadership or service roles can use those gifts in government. Those who have specific ministry gifts, such as preaching or teaching, should use them in the church. Regardless of the setting, evaluate your God-given talents and determine where you can use them most effectively.

To expand on this concept read Paul’s words to Titus: “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men” (Titus 3:1). We already know that obedience to God’s Word is commanded in our everyday lives. Here we are reminded that accepting the authority of the government is part of that obedience. How does obedience to the government fulfill our duty of sharing the message of salvation? Peter answers that question, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men; whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men . . . live as servants of God” (1 Peter 2:13-17). God’s Word promises that your Christian living will provide the opportunity to reflect the love of Christ and open doors for the presentation of the Gospel.

Distinction Between “Church” and Christians

Churches by their nature and design are not suited to spend time on political or government matters. In fact, national laws often forbid, or at least limit, such activity. Individual Christians, however, are not bound by the same restrictions. The Bible tells of many men and women who served faithfully in governments. Joseph became second in command in Egypt. Esther was the wife of King Xerxes and had an influence in his decisions. Daniel was a key adviser to King Nebuchadnezzar and King Darius. These examples all tell of a believer under the rule of a heathen nation and leader. Yet, the possibilities allowed these believers to provide faithful witnesses. Christians today have similar opportunities. Be a worker who is faithful and hard working for his/her employer (Colossians 3:23). If the employer happens to be a government agency, the obligations do not change. A faithful Christian will work to improve the governmental services that are provided. What better opportunity to reflect the love of Christ than in a government that oversees programs which are meant to serve and assist.

One other issue must be addressed. You have likely complained about the evil influences of government, the liberal humanism that goes unchecked and the gross abuse of money and power. If those accusations are correct, then what better way to remedy the problems than by delving into the process and effecting change directly. Don’t encourage the youth to avoid jobs in those “liberal occupations.” Over the years, strong Christians have served in government positions and made a difference. We need to see more and more faithful believers use their opportunities to witness to the truth of God’s Word. Your responsibility is to find areas in which you can serve. If you are not blessed with those gifts, find other talented Christians who have the God-given ability and unique desire to serve and then encourage them to make a difference. Be the salt of the earth and the light in the world that God has commanded you to be (Matthew 5:13-16).

As is likely obvious, any time you place a person into two kingdoms, you get questions and conflicts. It is a daily struggle for Christians to meet their legal obligations as citizens and also fulfill their God-given command to spread his Word. Our next article will look at solutions for solving those conflicts.

The Christian and Government Series: Part 4 – Resolving Conflicts Between the Two

By Rev. Robert Fleischmann, National Director, Christian Life Resources

Editor’s Note: This series is the 4th of 6 articles entitled, “The Christian and Government.”

I’ve come to realize that all relationships have good times and bad. There are relationships that are wonderful and which you will remember with a smile for the rest of your life. These might have been with a friend, coworker or mentor. Then again, there are relationships that caused nothing but pain and filled you with frustration. Those are the kind you can’t wait to get out of. Regardless of the association, you soon realize that tension and conflict are a part of all relationships and need to be dealt with appropriately. How to deal with those conflicts is the purpose of this article.

Involvement in Government

As illustrated in our previous article, we know that Christians have the right, and sometimes the responsibility, to be involved in government activities. Do you have the gifts of leadership, administration, or service that would fit with a role in government? Evaluate the gifts you have been given and determine whether you can serve the government with those talents.

To some degree, all of us have a responsibility to be involved in our government. Citizens of a country need to show allegiance and respect to the country in which they live. If laws command you to serve, then it is your God-ordained responsibility to do just that (Romans 13:2). For that reason, you must obey the laws that control education, driving, taxation and other behaviors. There are also certain freedoms or privileges that you should exercise as a citizen. These include the right to vote, communication with legislators, and participation in other government activities as they arise. When you as a Christian have the ability to let your light shine, it is beneficial that you take advantage of that opportunity and use it to God’s glory. Involvement in government is a privilege and opportunity that should not be ignored. In addition, if changes in the government are to be made, you need to be involved. You cannot make changes by sitting on the outside.

Distinction of Responsibilities

In your relationship with government, understand that both the church and the state have responsibilities. The state is responsible for maintaining peace and protecting its citizens. The church has the responsibility to proclaim the truth of God’s Word, evangelize the lost and nurture God’s people with the Word. These responsibilities are very distinct, but they also touch each other in your daily living. That means Christians need to live by the rules and principles of both entities. Much of the time there is enough distinction between the respective responsibilities that there is a relative harmony. There are times, however, when the two begin to overlap or interfere with each other’s realm of authority. This causes many Christians a great deal of frustration.

Coping with this conflict begins with recognizing that the government makes laws based on simple moral precepts and experiences in order to meet its responsibilities. For example, after a number of deaths occur on a certain dangerous road, the government steps in to set a lower speed limit. When the number of bank robberies increase, the government determines that longer prison sentences are needed. Those are the areas of responsibility for a government. Although these laws are meant to reflect common sense, they are still imperfect because they are developed by imperfect people. This inevitably leads to conflict, if not tension, with those following the perfect precepts of God. Things really heat up when the state, in carrying out its responsibilities, enacts imperfect laws that directly interfere with the church working to accomplish its responsibilities.

Two Kinds of Conflict

So, we have two areas of potential conflict: (1) when the state clouds the truth by passing imperfect laws, and (2) when the state interferes with the responsibility of the church with their imperfect laws. Each type of violation demands a different response from the church.

Christ talked about Christians being a light to the world and the need to enlighten the dark world with the Gospel. When the state clouds our world, the church needs to shine even brighter with the truth. As an instance, if the state promotes alternative marital lifestyles as legally acceptable, its citizens could be misled into thinking it is appropriate. The church needs to clarify the issue in light of God’s Word. By speaking honestly about proper marital relationships, the church provides the clarity of God’s will and shines like a beacon of truth for all to see and hear.

One of the best examples from Scripture is the life of Daniel. As an adviser in a heathen government, he likely needed to give clear direction and advice to other government officials. Daniel’s lifestyle, wise counsel and obedience to the king, allowed him to give a strong witness of his faith. He did not disobey any of the king’s laws because they were not direct violations of God’s laws. Yet, when the king’s decree did interfere with God’s will, Daniel acted decisively.

This leads to the second type of conflict. When the government interferes with the role of the church, a Christian needs to respond in a more direct manner. Daniel was told to worship the king’s idol. This clearly conflicted with God’s command and interfered with God’s people doing their work. Daniel’s decision to continue offering daily prayers to God instead of bowing to the idol was clear. His actions served two purposes: He showed total obedience to God and gave a clear witness that the state law was wrong.

We can also look at Acts 3-5 and the story of Peter, John and the Sanhedrin. Peter and John were preaching the Gospel and through their efforts, they were evangelizing the unbelievers. Once the Sanhedrin commanded them to stop, the rulers caused a serious conflict by stepping into the realm of the church. The attempt was to act in the capacity of maintaining peace; the reality is that they intruded on the church’s work of preaching God’s Word. This conflict caused Peter to boldly state, “We must obey God rather than men!” (Acts 5:29).

These examples can help guide both the state and the church in the implementation of their respective responsibilities. The likelihood, however, is that continued conflicts will arise and Christians will need to deal with those conflicts on a regular basis.

How Do I Respond?

When you understand the responsibilities of both church and state you will more easily determine when either of them has overstepped their boundaries. When the state clouds the truth, the church needs to speak loudly and clearly so people can see through the confusion. At the same time, the church needs to stay focused. It is not within the church’s realm to use the government as a tool to convert the collective morality of society. Such rationalization would permit illegal activity in the name of the overall good of humanity. Throughout any conflict, remember the role of the church is to win souls for Christ, and that is done solely with the Gospel.

When the state interferes with the work of the church, it is necessary that Christians show obedience to God over men. It is important that as we seek to correct the state for its error we do not compound a sin with a sin. Illegal activities, to bring about corrections when legal options exist, are not acceptable practices for Christians. If, however, no choices are left and the believer must either sin against God when obeying the state or illegally act in rejection of the state in order not to sin against God, the Christian will always make obedience to God the prime concern. For that reason we must carefully judge when our obedience to God is being threatened without legal recourse. Illegal activity just for the sake of expedience is not acceptable. All other options must be gone.

The Christian and Government Series: Part 5 – Involvement in Government is Consistent with Faith

By Former U.S. Congressman Mark Neumann

Editor’s Note: This series is the 5th of 6 articles entitled, “The Christian and Government.”

A Christian’s involvement in government is as American as baseball and apple pie.

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his home upon a rock. The rains came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew against that house yet it did not fall because it had its foundation upon the rock.”(Matthew 7:24,25)

Our heritage as Americans is a long list of leaders who openly and willingly expressed their faith. They didn’t “wear it on their shirt sleeve” or force it on the country in the form of a mandatory religion. Instead, they expressed their faith by putting into practice its principles in making good decisions to govern our land. Even more important though, they allowed their faith to naturally flow through into their daily activities and speeches.

George Washington, in a proclamation day speech 1789, said: “Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of the Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and to humbly implore his protection, aid and favors…”

Thomas Jefferson’s words as inscribed on the Jefferson Memorial: “God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure if we have removed a conviction that these liberties are a gift from God.”

Abraham Lincoln’s words, “That this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth.”

In fact, at the Lincoln Memorial, Lincoln’s entire second inaugural address is etched in stone. He refers to God at least 15 times in this single speech. Remember, this was not a sermon in a church, it was the President’s Address to the Nation!

The aforementioned words from Matthew were spoken by Jesus Christ Himself at the end of the Sermon on the Mount. In many ways these words reflect our American heritage, a large group of hard-working people, committed to their faith and their families, and quietly putting Scriptural principles into practice.

This has, as promised in Scripture, created a nation with a heritage of a rock-solid foundation – “a nation that has been able to withstand the rains…the streams rising and the winds blowing.” Throughout history that rock-solid foundation has been tested. In the 1700s we fought for and won our independence. In the 1800s we withstood a civil war fought over moral principle, and in the 1900s we stood against world tyranny in two world wars.

Our nation’s leaders understood that if America was to stand in the face of the many adversities she would inevitably face, then the nation had to be based on a rock-solid foundation. In order for these great American leaders to govern using Scriptural principles, thousands and thousands of “just regular American citizens,” just like us, had to stand with them.

My wife, Sue, and I both grew up in Christian families. We actually met for the first time in a fourth grade Sunday School class in East Troy, Wisconsin. We had the privilege of regularly worshiping our Lord and Savior and learning of his will from Holy Scripture. Neither of us came from families of pastors or teachers so our background is similar to many other Christians who fill our churches on any given Sunday. We did not have any ties whatsoever in any sort of politics either through relatives or otherwise.

As we listened to our pastors and our Sunday School teachers we came to understand that the Bible said many things about rights and wrongs in our day-to-day behavior. We also learned that we, like all people, have sinned by not living a perfect life in accord with what God’s Word has laid out.

The true beauty of our faith is the understanding that our Lord and Savior died on the cross so that we may be forgiven and ultimately join Him in heaven. That, in a nutshell, is really all that truly matters in life.

So what does this all have to do with government and the series of articles relating to the Christian involvement in government? Well, to us it seemed perfectly natural as we considered the current state of affairs in our great nation. We, as Christians who have heard the Word, should get involved putting that Word into practice.

Some of our most fundamental institutions in our land are under serious attack. For example, in Matthew 19:5 Jesus says, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be united with his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” Clearly marriage is a man and a woman, united to become one. America today is on the verge of redefining marriage or perhaps it’s better said on the verge of eliminating the Scriptural principle of marriage.

While I was in the 105th Congress, we passed legislation defining marriage to be one man and one woman. At the time, I thought the legislation to be useless because everyone knew marriage was between a man and a woman. How naive I was!*

If you wish to see government’s influence on this issue, take a look at your most recent paycheck. Taxes are being withheld for the government. That means that money you earned is sent to Washington on your behalf. If government chooses to recognize the union of two men or two women at the same level as marriage, then some of that money you earned will be used to pay for various benefits to those marriages. Health insurance, for example, for a gay or lesbian partner would be paid for partially with your dollars.*

Unfortunately, it doesn’t end there. You see, if the gay or lesbian partner is recognized for this use of your tax dollars, then the next logical step is the recognition of any and all live-in partners. Further, as it becomes “politically correct” to ignore the concept of marriage, industry is sure to follow. Recently the big three automakers announced they would extend benefits to gay and lesbian partners and presumably all live-in partners. Just think about that for a minute, because at this point we are well on the way to eliminating the Scriptural principle of marriage and your hard earned tax dollars may well be the impetus for this happening.*

*At the time of this writing, gay marriage was not yet legal.

“…everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man…” Surely as Christians we have a responsibility to work to ensure that our resources (in this case tax dollars) are used in accord with Scriptural principles. This means Christian involvement in government.

During my four years in the United States House of Representatives I saw many, many examples of this. Let me mention just one more. In the first chapter of Luke we learn of a visit made by Mary to Elizabeth’s home. Elizabeth was at the time about six months pregnant. Twice in the span of five verses, Holy Scripture refers to the child in Elizabeth’s womb as a “baby.” In America today, our government has dismissed its constitutional directive to protect “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” The government has instead instituted a policy that allows for the elimination of the life of a baby as late as the ninth month of a woman’s pregnancy.

I would again encourage you to think of your most recent paycheck and your hard earned dollars that were withheld and then sent to Washington. Time after time while in Congress, I was asked to vote on whether or not to use your tax dollars to fund abortions. Should your tax dollars be used to fund abortions in military hospitals, for example, or should funding of abortions be included in health insurance benefits for federal employees? Should they be used to fund abortions as part of a foreign aid package?

It’s easy to pass off our responsibility to “put these words of mine (Christ’s) into practice” by simply saying it’s government and I can’t do anything about government. In America we are the government and in our form of government we the people DO have a voice and therefore a responsibility to be involved.

Imagine for a minute if in the 1850s, Abraham Lincoln had taken the approach that he couldn’t change government. Would we still, as a nation, tolerate placing people into bondage because of the color of their skin? While Lincoln is the name we remember, it took thousands standing side by side with Lincoln to end slavery. Many paid the ultimate sacrifice to preserve our nation and to end a moral wrong.

Let me give some very specific ways how we as Christians can and should be involved. First is voting. I ran for national office a total of five times, four for Congress and once for the United States Senate. In three of the races, including the Senate race, if one out of every 100 people would have voted differently the outcomes would have changed.

It’s very important that we take the time to get to know the candidates. Find out which candidate will carry our values into government. Then we need to educate our friends and neighbors who may have only heard rumors, innuendoes, and/or the media’s version of reality as related to a given candidate. Remember, if one person out of every 100 people would have changed their vote, the outcome would have been different. In America the people DO matter.

While in office, I received about 3,500 pieces of mail and/or contacts to our office each month. It’s very important that our elected officials hear from us on a regular basis. I would strongly encourage short, to-the-point messages delivered by mail, phone, or email. Believe me, the people to whom Scriptural principles are not important, do correspond.

For those whom the Lord has given the willingness to do so, there are many more ways to be involved. Most candidates are very interested in having a grassroots organization with leaders literally on every block willing to serve as resource people for others in the area. These folks could do things like having literature available and putting up yard signs. There is little that says more to your neighbors and friends than putting a candidate’s sign in your yard.

In Matthew, after talking of the wise man putting the Word into practice, our Lord continues to say: “But everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rains came down, the streams rose, the winds blew and beat against the house and it fell with a great crash” (Matthew 7:26,27).

Christian involvement in our nation’s government in our past has been as much a part of our history as baseball and apple pie. The result is a nation built on a rock-solid foundation.

Christian involvement today is needed perhaps more than at any time in our nation’s history. It’s clearly up to us to decide what sort of a foundation we wish to pass on to the next generation in our great land. I can assure you that, in the words of Edmund Burke, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

I would conclude by imagining for a minute that it’s the year 2020 and that the Lord has granted each of us the privilege of still being here. Will we look back on 2000 as a time in our history when the rock-solid foundation created by putting God’s Word into practice was changed to a sand foundation by a nation ignoring God’s Word? Or, will we look at today as the start of a nation recommitting itself to Scriptural principles? A nation that fulfilled its role in history as generations before, in passing on a nation with a rock-solid foundation. I look forward optimistically, because I know that God rather than man is in control.

The Christian and Government Series: Part 6 – The Christian as a Public Servant

By Former U.S. Congressman Mark Neumann

Editor’s Note: This series is the last of 6 articles entitled, “The Christian and Government.”

To begin to understand why anyone believing in the values and principles taught in Scripture would be willing to serve in government, I would turn to Isaiah 64:8 where it reminds us: “We are the clay, he is the potter; we are all the work of your hand.”

I believe God molds each of our lives in the way he sees fit and has a role for each of us. It is important to always remember that no role in life is greater or lesser when viewed in the light of the awesome greatness of his Kingdom.

This understanding helps keep in perspective the reasoning for a Christian to accept the role as a public servant. If it is how God wishes to mold one’s personal clay, then that role should be accepted by the Christian just as any other calling in life.

While this role should not be viewed as greater or lesser than any other, it is certainly more visible. This increased visibility provides great opportunities for sharing our faith in our Lord and Savior. What a privilege and blessing this is!

Consider for a moment what would happen if all the Christians sat quietly on the sidelines. Here I am not thinking of only the person who accepts the public role of actually serving, but of all the thousands and thousands of people who stand with that person to make his or her public service possible.

I can assure you the government offices and positions not filled by people with a set of values will be filled by those who do not. These people with little or no values will then govern our land. They will make decisions regarding government America without the moral considerations that a Christian would consider. As a result, we as a nation should expect a very different governing policy.

I would emphasize that we are not talking about Christians “wearing their religion on their shirt sleeve” while in office. I am especially not suggesting that the Christian serving in public office should work to establish a national religion.

What I’m saying here is that a person who lacks the moral compass found in Scripture is going to make very different policy decisions than a person who possesses that moral compass deep inside.

The earliest and most obvious example I can think of is decisions relating to abortion. While serving in the United States House of Representatives I literally had dozens of votes relating to spending your tax dollars to perform abortions. Surely, the compass inside the people voting to keep this procedure legal was pointing in a very different direction than the compasses inside the folks who made my family’s public service possible.

In my great human weakness, keeping the compass always pointed in the right direction while making governing decisions was not always easy to do. At times our internal compass, the compass that the people who elected us expected us to follow, and the pressures from a variety of other sources all pointed into different directions. There are many competing interests in Washington D.C. My wife, Sue, and I developed a prioritized checklist for any votes in which questions or conflicts of interests arose. Our checklist was very straightforward. First, I would ask, “Is there a moral or ethical consideration in casting the vote one way or the other?” If there was, no further discussion was necessary and my vote could not be swayed. Casting votes relating to abortion fit into this classification.

If, in a vote, the moral or ethical principle was not as apparent or was equal on both sides of an issue, the second consideration was the future well-being of our nation. Issues relating to national defense were generally decided at this level.

The third consideration for those votes that were not decided by one of the first two criteria were the wishes of our constituents. Many issues were decided at this level. I tried to always remember that I worked for the people and not the other way around.

I should be very clear here that the wishes of the people could in fact determine how I would vote. This was true provided I did not believe casting the vote with their wishes violated any moral or ethical principle and was not contrary to the best interests of our nation’s future. Sue and I decided early on that if we had to violate principle to stay in office, then we would willingly return to the private sector.

Fourth on the list of considerations when casting a vote was a whole raft of other pressures that I had never really even thought much about before serving in office. For example, if there were no moral or ethical considerations, there was no significant impact on our nation’s future, and my constituents didn’t have strong feelings one way or the other, then party wishes were generally considered.

Sometimes decisions regarding casting an actual vote were much easier than other decisions that had to be made. While serving in the U.S. House of Representatives was a great honor and privilege, it created many personal conflicts.

Sue and I have been married since one year out of high school and had hardly spent a day apart in the 27 years before I became a member of Congress. Suddenly I was spending three to five days a week away from home, and Sue, the true saint she is, was dealing day to day with three teenagers. We refused to move to Washington, D.C. When I returned home from Washington, demands on our time were constant. Scheduling family time became a necessity. When I was home, we first scheduled family activities and the other things came second. This was the only way I could get to at least a portion of our kids’ activities. Very seldom did a political or public event interrupt a family day.

Some in Wisconsin may remember the stir that deer season caused. The liberal press never did understand that the significance of that weekend was keeping a promise to my son rather than shooting a deer.

All in all, public service was an honor and a privilege. It is our hope and prayer that our service has been acceptable. In the book of Matthew, chapter five, Jesus says: “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

As we now have returned to the private sector, Sue and I hope to join thousands of others in letting our lights shine. It is our sincere hope that we all will stand side by side putting our “lights on a stand” to lead to the restoration of our great land.

Our dream for America’s future is that nations from around the world will join our citizens from within, once again seeing the United States of America as a “city on a hill.” Our dream for America is that our nation be looked up to not only because of her economic and military strength, but because of the moral strength and character of her people.

As the Potter molds each of our lives, let us hope that together we can turn this dream into reality.

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