“What’s the Governments role?”
by Chris Gillespie
In Part 1 of this series we looked at a number of Biblical passages that relate to the current immigration and refugee crisis. If you didn’t read that short article I’d encourage you to go back and read that before you proceed in reading this part in the series we are calling “What’s the governments role?”
In this article we are going to look at the role of government in society according to the Bible. The primary Biblical text dealing with the subject of government is Romans 13:1-7. To be sure, this text is speaking of government in an ideal way, meaning, it’s how government was intended to work when God instituted it. Since we live in a fallen world, nothing works as it’s intended to, and that would include government. However, the principles still stand and Christ followers are to be shaped by God’s Word in the areas which it speaks, and the role of government is one of those areas.
Before we go any farther spend a few minutes reading and meditating on Romans 13:1-7, here it is:
Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For 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 you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. 6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.
Two Basic Principles From Romans 13:1-7
There are many more than two principles that could be applied from these verses, but for the sake of our current discussion I will limit it to two.
- Everyone in a position of governmental authority has been placed there by God.
v.1 “for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”
v.4 “For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good….They are God’s servants…”
v.6 “the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing.”
This in no way means that God approves of the lifestyle, policies, personalities, decisions, personal morals, etc. of every governing official. It does mean that God has either allowed or placed them in that position for His own purposes. It also means they will ultimately be held accountable by God for how he or she handled the position and authority that was granted them by God.
- The purpose of government is primarily the protection of its citizens.
v.3 “For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong.”
v.4 “For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.”
This doesn’t mean that Paul was advocating violating your Christian morals and values because an oppressive government is demanding your submission. Paul himself practiced civil disobedience by preaching the Gospel in the Roman Empire and was eventually imprisoned and killed for it. Throughout history there has been example after example of Christians continuing to worship Jesus faithfully in the face of intense, bloody persecution delivered at the hands of evil tyrants.
On the other hand, it does mean that God’s intended role for the government is to protect its citizens by putting laws, and punishment for breaking those laws in place that will ensure the welfare of those who call that particular country, state, city, and town their home.
How does this apply to the current crisis?
On Friday, January 27, 2017 President Trump signed an executive order titled, “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States.” The stated purpose of the executive order is to “protect the American people from terrorist attacks by foreign nationals admitted to the United States.”
It would be wise to go online and read the executive order for yourself. Don’t just take the media’s word on what it contains. Remember, depending on which media outlet you listen to, the interpretation of the executive order will be slanted. Read it for yourself, and then come up with your own conclusions. Also, whether you agree with the executive order or not, the President is doing what he thinks is necessary, and within his legal rights as the President to do to protect the American people.
One of the beautiful things about being an American is that you have the freedom to publicly disagree with your elected officials. That’s a God given gift! So if you think the temporary ban on refugees and immigrants from the 7 designated countries is un-American, let your voice be heard, protest, write letters to your elected representatives.
No matter what, whether you agree with the President’s action or not, as God’s people we must never place our hope in Presidents, or Nations. God is our King. We belong to another Kingdom. He is our Rock and our Shelter. Ultimately, according to the Bible, all Christians are “foreigners and exiles” in the world, and our allegiance is to God and the Kingdom that Jesus inaugurated 2,000 years ago.
So, where does that leave the followers of Jesus? In part 1 of this series we saw Bible verses that tell us to love and care for those who are “foreigners, the poor, and refugees” that are among us. We just saw in Romans 13 that the government’s primary role is to protect its citizens. How can we as Christians be good Americans, and also faithful followers of Jesus Christ?
That will be the topic of our 3rd and final article in this series. In the meantime, spend some time praying for our President. Pray for him, because the decisions he is making will affect generations of people either for the good or the bad. Also, pray for those who are fleeing nations like Syria where evil people have taken over their country and are destroying the only lives they have ever known.