by Jeffrey W. Hamilton
Text: I Peter 2:13-17
I. Peter talked about our relationship to the government - I Peter 2:13-17
A. Submission to the government is an involuntary action. Most of us do not have opportunities to chose which government we wish to live under. Even with choice, we will always be under some government.
1. Submission to rulers is not optional - Titus 3:1-2
B. Our submission to the government reflects upon God and his word.
C. Governments are not independent. They are subject to God, from whom they derive their authority. Romans 13:1-7
1. We, as citizens, are actually serving God through our service to these worldly authorities.
2. If they require us to violate God’s will, then we must remain submissive to the king’s king. - Acts 5:29
3. Daniel’s service to his king was exemplary. - Daniel 6:3-4
a. So his enemies attacked in an area where Daniel would not compromise, in his service to God - Daniel 6:7
b. It was only 30 days, but Daniel did not vary from his routine - Daniel 6:10
c. He was taken and thrown into the lions’ den, but notice who the king favored - Daniel 6:14,16
d. How did Daniel win the king’s heart? Through his service to God and the king!!
D. But what if I disagree with the law?
1. The only exception is if the government requires you to violate God’s law. You serve God first because God is who put the government in place - Romans 13:2
2. You can work within the government’s rules to request a change, but you are not in control, you are in submission!
a. As Esther did to get the law modified to save her people.
E. What if the government violates God’s laws?
1. Then the rulers will answer to God, from whom they derive their authority.
2. However, their evil is not permission for Christians to rebel.
3. So long as they do not require us to violate God’s law, then we must remain in submission to them whether they are good or bad.
4. The government Paul and Peter wrote Christians to submit to was the one which persecuted Christians, murdering them for their faith. Yet no Christian led an armed rebellion against their government.
a. They allowed themselves to be mistreated.
b. They remained in submission.
II. But what is to be done about a bad government?
A. That is a question the founders of the United States struggled with for many years.
1. Governments are ordained by God, but what should happen when a government does not fulfill its duties as God appointed them?
B. What was argued is that Romans 13:1 was speaking generically of government, but was not addressing each specific government.
1. I have to disagree with that line of reasoning since the statement was made while Christians lived under the Roman Empire, one that did not fulfill its duties to its citizens well, but which Christians still owed obedience when it did follow God's laws.
C. Another point, more accurately made, is to note from the Old Testament that often people disobeyed the government laws when they conflicted with God's laws
1. Under the direction of God, people had at times lead rebellions against the current government.
2. Examples would be
a. Daniel when he prayed in direct violation of a law
b. Ehud who murdered an occupying king
c. Jephthah who repulsed an occupying nation, etc.
3. Obeying God instead of man is clearly defined, but today it would be hard to tell when God desires a people to rebel and form their own government.
a. Side-Note: The founding fathers never believed in anarchy. They understood it to be God's will that governments exist.
b. Daniel 2:21 - When God changes governments, it is done through the actions of people.
c. Every change in governance came about by governments being toppled through wars or rebellions.
d. God is behind those changes.
4. What the founding fathers decided was that England at that time was violating the laws of God.
a. Thus they were in the right to rebel against those violations and they expected that God would support their cause.
D. Another point argued was whether it was the government's laws or the person ruling the government who was ordained by God.
1. The founding fathers argued that England was ruled by a set of laws to which the king was subject.
2. Thus, the laws were above individual leaders.
3. Yet, the king of that time was violating England's laws.
4. The colonists decided they were justified in insisting that England's law be upheld, even though it meant rebelling against the current ruler.
E. It should also be noted that there was never a time that the colonists, as individuals, gathered to decide to rebel against English rule.
1. The colonies all had their local governments.
2. It was these governments who took action against England when England did not uphold their own laws in the colonies.
3. Thus, for the Christian living in those times, they were always obeying their governing authorities.
4. It was just that for a period of time the local authorities were in rebellion against the remote authorities.
F. Another fact often overlooked is that the early leaders spent about 11 years trying to reach a peaceful settlement with England.
1. They did not take up arms against the government until after England sent its military into the private homes of its own citizens to seize property.
2. The founding fathers felt they had no other choice but to defend their homes and they found justification for self-defense in the Scriptures.
3. The Declaration of Independence came after the people found themselves attacked by their own government.
III. Martin Luther King, Jr.
A. “He is also remembered for his urge to use nonviolence as the most effective form of protest (even when violence was threatened against him and his family)” [“For Martin Luther King Jr. Nonviolent Protest Never Meant Wait and See,” history.com]
B. But toward the end of his life, while he still advocated non-violence, he claimed there were reasons for riots.
1. “…it is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear?…It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.” (“The Other America,” 1968).
2. I believe Dr. King got off track with this. He still maintained his nonviolence stance but he caused rioters to feel justified, which I doubt was his intentions.
C. King’s methods worked within the system that allowed for peaceful protests. They got people’s attention and change resulted.
D. It needs to be remembered the King was a Baptist minister. He saw himself as a Christian and wanted to promote what he saw as the cause of Christ.
IV. Protests and Riots
A. I mentioned both the American Revolution and Martin Luther King because the current riots and violent protests are being portrayed as being similar to these past events. Clearly they are not.
1. These past events operated in light of what the participants saw in the Scriptures
B. Nor can support for violence be found in the Scriptures
1. David talked about a time that sounds hauntingly like our modern problems - Psalms 55:9-11
2. God is against violent people - Psalms 11:5-7
3. He teaches men to stay away from violence - Psalms 17:3-5
4. Psalms 140 is a call for God to stop the violent
5. Paul warned about times like this - II Timothy 3:1-5
C. Often it is claimed that “others” are subverting their peaceful protests, but I can’t think of one recent protest that actually remained non-violent and non-destructive.
D. It has been well published that the leaders of Black Lives Matter have taken stands that are against Christianity
1. “Black Lives Matter is incompatible with Judeo-Christian beliefs and teachings. They don’t include God in their platform and have made anti-Semitic statements. There’s a hyper-focus on race which is the antithesis of Christian teaching. Black Lives Matter only sees people through racial and group identity lenses, not as individuals and unique creations of God. Their message is one of division and hate towards Western society.” [“Should Christians Support Black Lives Matter,” Medium.com]
2. “We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement” [“What We Believe,” Black Lives Matter]
3. “We foster a queer affirming network. When we gather, we do so with the intention of freeing ourselves from the tight grip of heteronormative thinking” [“What We Believe,” Black Lives Matter]
V. There are times when governments need to change
A. But any change will not do. Only changes that bring people closer to the ideals of Christianity.
B. We pray that government allows us to live quiet and peaceful lives - I Timothy 2:1-6
C. Affect change as righteous men and not as the wicked behave