The believer’s influence on government did not end with the coming to an end of the ‘Old Testament’ era. No, that influence carried right over to the times of the ‘New Testament’. The very first example can be found in the life of John the Baptist. During his lifetime the ruler of Galilee was Herod Antipas, a ‘tetrarch’ who had been appointed by the Roman emperor and was subject to the authority of the Roman Empire. Herod was not from the people of Israel but was an Idumean…from Edom, a neighboring nation. John the Baptist had been rebuking Herod for a specific personal sin in his life…his taking of his brother Phillip’s wife. For this Herod had John thrown into prison. John had additionally preached the good news to the people and exposed the evil Herod had done. [Luke 3:18-20]. John did not hesitate to speak to officials of the empire or the church about the moral right and wrong of their government policies. He knew things were not as they should be at the temple. He saw the corruption the aristocratic…liberal…priests had introduced in this sacred space, running the temple like a business meant to produce profit rather than profiting those who came to worship and receive Godly guidance. His sharp, even biting tone of language used when he addressed the Pharisees and Sadducees brought them to the place where John was baptizing. They wanted to monitor his actions and speech…ever hear of anything like that happening nowadays? His actions are portrayed as those of “a righteous and holy man”. [Mark 6:20]. He had a ‘significant influence’ on the policies of the government, to the point that it cost him his life. [Mark 6:21-29].
Of course we have the Apostle Paul who at one point in his life was part of the problem. There could probably not be a better bureaucrat to support bad government policies. And then one day God ‘woke’ him up and he became a fervent critic of government. He took a ‘hard’ stand against the pagan kings who gave no allegiance to the God of Israel or to Jesus. He also did not leave the hypocritical church leaders out of the mix. Then of course the ultimate critic of government at the time was Jesus, especially the church government. He was not concerned with offending. Jesus supported government but not when it was used for evil purposes.
In addition to these examples, the mere existence of specific Bible passages that teach about government in the New Testament is an argument for “significant Christian influence” on government. Why else would we think God put Romans 13:1-7 and 1 Peter 2:13-14 and other related passages in the Bible? Are they in the Bible simply as a matter of intellectual curiosity for Christians who read them privately but never use them to speak to government officials about how God understands their roles and responsibilities? Does God intend this material to be concealed from the people in government and kept secret by Christians who read it and silently moan about how far government has strayed from what God wants it to be? Certainly God put them there not only to inform Christians about how they should relate to civil government, but also that people with governmental responsibilities could know what God expects from them. This also pertains to other passages in the Bible that instructs us about God’s moral standards, about the nature and purpose of human beings made in God’s image, about God’s purpose for the earth, and about principles concerning good and bad governments. All of these teachings are relevant for those who serve in governmental office, and we should speak and teach about them to both officials and congregations when we have the opportunity to do so.
Next week we will look at the responsibility of citizens in a democracy to understand the Bible’s teaching.
– Bob Munsey