Honor The King
By Wendell Hutchins
[all Bible quotes NASB]
We are citizens of a much greater kingdom than any found on earth. My faith is not in politics or earthly leaders. My responsibility as a Christian is to serve my King, the Lord Jesus Christ, by helping others come to know Christ. God will judge leaders and nations, He will raise them up and He will bring them down. I must therefore spend my energies helping people find and enter the kingdom of heaven and less energy should be devoted worrying about the “kingdom” of the USA. Christ is the answer to the ills of the world, not congress, nor the president, the Supreme Court, or the United Nations.
With this in mind, I wish to share with you a personal decision and a confession of sin, in that I have come to repentance about making fun of and mocking our political leaders. I have been the world's worst, and been pretty good at being funny if I say so myself; but I must stop. This is not to say I am now disinterested in politics; but there is a Biblical right way and wrong way to be a Christian and exercise political opinion and privileges, and I have not done well.
I submit some scriptures that have influenced my decision; 1 Timothy 2:1-4 "I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." I have prayed for my leaders, but I have disparaged them as well.
1 Peter 2:13-18 "Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God. Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king. Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable." I do not have the right to choose which ones I will honor and which ones I will despise; I need to pray for them as long as God suffers them to be in power and honor them for that same duration, whether I like them or not, whether I agree with their politics or not. And the tone of verse 17 is clearly imperative, no choice or vacillation allowed; the statement “honor the king” is just as imperatively and clearly stated as is “love the brotherhood” and “fear God.” To “fear God” but to not “honor the king” is therefore just as wrong as to “honor the king” and yet to not “fear God.”
And yes, verse 18 may have nothing to do with 13-17, but I include it because if a slave is commanded to submit to a master he is tied to legally or economically or however, I am convinced personally that, as one in a place of submission to the elected and appointed leaders of the nation, I am expected to do the same thing. (Remember that in the Roman system slave owners had the power of life and death over slaves! Please consult the following website for more details; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slavery_in_antiquity )
Romans 13:1-2 says, “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.” Those in authority will be judged by God for their use or abuse of their God-granted authority; those under authority will be judged by their use or abuse of their role of submission to those authorities.
A careful study of history during the time all these passages were written will reveal that their political leaders were liars, thieves, murderers, adulterers, child molesters, pagan hedonists, etc. (We find this in secular history, because the inspired Bible writers say little or nothing about them, as if the Holy Spirit takes the evil conduct of unbelieving political leaders so much for granted that it is not worth addressing.) This was true also when Jesus walked the earth; but we don't find Jesus leading political rebellions or organizing political rallies or marches against these evil leaders; in fact, right up until Jesus was taken from sight his disciples kept wondering when He was going to do such things. The last words spoken to Jesus by these disciples are found in Acts 1:6; "Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?" Many of their mistakes came from this fundamental misunderstanding. We make the same mistake when we combine religious zeal with political zeal, and miss what Jesus has in mind for us to be doing.
Jesus was falsely accused, but even the corrupt pagan judge Pontius Pilate could see from His record that He was innocent, as you can read in the gospels. It was the same with Paul when he was on trial; but let us follow the chain of events concerning Paul. In Acts 23:1-5 we read, “Paul, looking intently at the Council, said, "Brethren, I have lived my life with a perfectly good conscience before God up to this day." The high priest Ananias commanded those standing beside him to strike him on the mouth. Then Paul said to him, "God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Do you sit to try me according to the Law, and in violation of the Law order me to be struck?" But the bystanders said, "Do you revile God's high priest?" And Paul said, "I was not aware, brethren, that he was high priest; for it is written, 'YOU SHALL NOT SPEAK EVIL OF A RULER OF YOUR PEOPLE.'" Paul misspoke, but correctly admitted his error when he realized it. The scripture Paul refers to is Exodus 22:28; “You shall not curse God, nor curse a ruler of your people.” Again, we see the idea of honoring God and human leadership connected, as in 1 Peter 2:17.
When Paul spoke before King Agrippa, he conducted himself properly; Acts 26:1-3 “Agrippa said to Paul, "You are permitted to speak for yourself." Then Paul stretched out his hand and proceeded to make his defense: “In regard to all the things of which I am accused by the Jews, I consider myself fortunate, King Agrippa, that I am about to make my defense before you today; especially because you are an expert in all customs and questions among the Jews; therefore I beg you to listen to me patiently.” In vs. 24-26 we see Paul react properly and respectfully when interrupted by a Roman unbeliever; “While Paul was saying this in his defense, Festus said in a loud voice, "Paul, you are out of your mind! Your great learning is driving you mad." But Paul said, "I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I utter words of sober truth. For the king knows about these matters, and I speak to him also with confidence, since I am persuaded that none of these things escape his notice; for this has not been done in a corner.”
As we study this trial, consider this, if you are already a Christian; we dare not let an idle remark about a political leader close the ears of someone who needs to hear the gospel! Often such a person needs little excuse to avoid listening, and you know how sensitive people can be about politics as well as religion! Paul knew this as well; Acts 26:27-29 “King Agrippa, do you believe the Prophets? I know that you do." Agrippa replied to Paul, "In a short time you will persuade me to become a Christian." And Paul said, "I would wish to God, that whether in a short or long time, not only you, but also all who hear me this day, might become such as I am, except for these chains." Agrippa was probably being sarcastic, but Paul’s response was kind, sincere, and in a tone of respect that had the best chance to keep ears open to whatever further gospel message he might be able to speak to those present.
As with Jesus, these unbelieving leaders saw Paul was innocent of all charges; Acts 26:30-32 “The king stood up and the governor and Bernice, and those who were sitting with them, and when they had gone aside, they began talking to one another, saying, "This man is not doing anything worthy of death or imprisonment." And Agrippa said to Festus, "This man might have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar."
Hebrews 13:17 is about elders in the Lord’s church, but I include it for a reason; "Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account." To sum this verse up in Texan; everything I read in scripture about my relationship to elders boils down to “SUBMIT OR GIT;” if I cannot in good conscience submit to those who shepherd a congregation of the Lord's body, because of Scriptural matters (not petty personal opinions) and after much prayer, I need to shake the dust off my feet and move on.
I am convinced the same principle applies politically; “SUBMIT OR GIT.” Therefore, I either need to submit to, honor, and pray for my leaders (whether it's easy or not) or, if I cannot in good conscience submit to the leaders of my nation, I must consider (in my case) whether New Zealand or some other English-speaking country will be a more suitable environment for me to obey the scriptures.
If we will follow the scriptures in dealing with our leaders, I believe God will bless our efforts. If we rely more on God than on our government our faith will be in the right power, the Almighty one.
One final thought to close; and friend, if you are a Christian and this thought convicts you let it; if we as Christians had as much passion about teaching "Christ and Him crucified" as we do about politics, we could make a much greater, much more important, and much more lasting difference in our society. What is your passion and priority?