From the February 1997 issue of Brethren which is published by Les and his wife Linda
The Christian and His Responsibility
to the Government
Man has always had a problem in fulfilling his responsibilities to the government, especially when he disagrees with its policies. Many Christians in South Africa were upset with the last government because they were treated unfairly. Lately I have noticed that many Christians are upset with our present government because of its corruption, failure to keep promises, and inability to reduce crime. The government has also passed many ungodly laws such as the removing of the death penalty, the legalizing of gambling, and abortion on demand. I believe that South Africa was also the first country in the world to legalize homosexual marriages. Just about every Christian I know has been affected by crime in some way. This has led to feelings of anger and bitterness towards our government and towards our fellow men. What must we Christians do in this situation?
First of all I think we should not expect our government to be a good government. Our government was elected by majority rule. Are the majority of people in this country true Christians? Matthew 7:13-14 says that few go down the narrow way that leads to life.
The government that ruled in the days of Jesus was also not a good government. The Jews lived under the military rule of a corrupt foreign government, Rome. They had the same attitude problems as we do. They asked Jesus if they should pay taxes to Rome. Jesus reply was simple and clear, "Render therefore unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's" (Matt. 22:21).
After Christianity began to grow and spread, Christians were persecuted and even killed by both the local Jewish leaders and the Roman government. Yet Paul wrote, "Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due ..." (Rom. 13:7)
He also wrote to Titus, "Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men. For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived. . ." (Tit. 3:1-3). The only time we must not be subject to rulers, is if a ruler tries to force us to disobey God (Acts 5:27-29).
Even should we have the most corrupt government in the world, we are not excused from fulfilling our responsibilities to it. If we fail to heed God's commands, we stand guilty before him. "Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. There-fore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on them-selves."
Brethren, what can we do so that we do not bring judgment on ourselves? How do we handle our feelings? Is there anything we can do that will make this country a better place?
First, we need to have a godly attitude towards our failures and the failures of our fellow countrymen. We must hear the teaching of Jesus, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted" (Matt. 5:4). Jesus promises in Matthew 11:28, "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." We must not be like those in the world around us, filled with hate and fear; we must rather mourn for our sins and for theirs. Our godly actions, based on the attitude of mourning, will give us the promised comfort and rest. "Godly sorrow produces repentance to salvation, not to be regretted" (2 Cor. 7:10). What are some things we ourselves need to repent of?
1. Pay the government what you owe. If you are earning money that the government does not know about, it is your duty to report that income to the government and pay tax on it. If you have not been doing this, you need to repent (Matt. 22:21; Rom. 13:6). You need to phone or go to the tax office and ask for forms to report your income.
If you have been boycotting paying of rent or water and lights, you need to repent and start paying all that you owe (Rom. 13:7-8).
If you have a TV, have you paid your TV license? Yes, it is unfair that so many get away with not paying for this license. But God says you must pay it (Rom. 13:7-8). If you can't afford the license, you must get rid of your TV. That is the law, and we must obey it.
2. Repent of materialism. Many who fail to do the above, do so because they rather want to spend the money on their own personal needs a fridge, new clothes, or a car, etc. Such people are guilty of the sin of materialism. Many of our brethren, even those who are poor, are guilty of this sin. This is evident by the poor collections I see taken up in congregations around the country. I know of brethren who spend more on TVs, sweets, cool drinks, and other unnecessary items, than they spend on the Lord. When I see only small change and no notes going into the collection plate I know this is so. Then we wonder why God withholds his blessings from us and why we lack joy in our lives (2 Cor. 8:2; 9:6).
3. Other attitudes we need to repent of are anger, hate, and bitterness. Sometimes our anger is also rooted in materialism. I have been hijacked at knife-point and also had two other cars stolen. I was very upset, but it made me think: Are my possessions really so important to me? (Matt. 6:19-21). We also need to remember that, unless it was for the grace of God, we would also be condemned to hell. Therefore, we need to love our enemies, do good to those who hate us, and pray for those who spitefully use us and persecute us (Matt. 5:44). Above all, we must not be guilty of being angry with a whole group or race of people be-cause a few persons of that group or race did evil to us. "Whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment" (Matt. 5:22).
4. If the crime in this country is causing me to worry unduly, I must repent (Matt. 6:44). Jesus said, "Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." If we spent more time making sure we are pleasing to God, we would not have so much time to spend in worry. Philippians 4:6-9 tells us that instead of worrying, we should pray to God, let our minds dwell on good things, and do those things that are right.
There are also some positive things that we can work on that will generally improve things in our country, no matter what kind of government we have.
1. We must work harder at fulfilling the Great Commission of Jesus in Matthew 28:18-20. We must teach people the plan of salvation and the way of Christ. The more people who become Christians, the less crime and evil there will be.
2. We must be like leaven (Matt. 13:33). We must al-ways be a good example. Whenever possible, we must influence those in authority to make wise decisions and we must influence those around us to do the right things. "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Rom. 12:21).
3. We must pray for all who are in authority that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence (2 Tim. 2:1-2).
Brethren, let us concentrate on obeying all the laws of God both laws governing our deeds and laws governing our attitudes. Let us also be certain to obey the laws of the land lest we find ourselves spending eternity with Satan and the same evil men who are presently trying to work us harm. Let us concentrate on spending eternity in the land where God himself is the light, where all is peace and joy.
Guardian of Truth XLI: 9 p. 12-13