- What is the correct position for a Christian to take on gun control?
- What is the correct position for a Christian to take on immigration?
- What is the role, Biblically speaking, that the government ought to take in caring for the poor?
- What about capital punishment?
- What about global warming?
- What is the Christian response to Covid-19?
- What is the Christian response to protests for equality?
Underneath all these questions is the question we will focus on this Sunday: what is the way of Jesus in politics? In this message we will look, as clearly as we can, at the Biblical teaching on this subject.Read More
Full Sermon Script
If you have your bible turn to Acts 4. And, as you’re doing that, I want to ask you a few questions:
What is the correct position for a Christian to take on gun control?
What is the correct position for a Christian to take on immigration?
What is the role, Biblically speaking, that the government ought to take in caring for the poor?
What about the capital punishment?
What about global warming?
What is the Christian response to Covid-19?
What is the Christian response to protests for equality?
Now, underneath all these questions is the question I want to focus on today: How should Christians relate to government?
I want us to look, as clearly as we can, at the Biblical teaching about how Christians should relate to government.
And let me say this about the spirit in which we talk about this today; because obviously, political issues are loaded subjects; and we don’t want to become divisive.
I’d like to ask each of us to approach this subject in a thoughtful, humble, mature and Spirit-sensitive way. We should be able to look at this subject in a way that honors Christ. Actually, there’s not a subject we couldn’t look at and discuss in a way that honors Christ.
And I would like this message to reflect the kind of church God is calling us to be.
So as we look at how we should relate to government, let’s just commit to think about and study this in a way that honors Christ. 
Alright, let’s look at Acts 4. We’re going to begin to look here at how the early believers had to deal with their relationship to governing powers. >>>>>
The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people.
> In this passage, Peter and John are in the temple, and Peter has healed a man who had been crippled since birth, and now they’re teaching in the temple.
So the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, these governing powers, are annoyed by this. >>>>>
They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. They seized Peter and John, and because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. But many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to about five thousand.
The next day the rulers, elders and teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and the other men of the high priest’s family.
> Then a trial begins and Peter and John explain what they’re doing, and the rulers come to a decision. Now look down at verse 18; Acts 4:18. >>>>>
Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
After further threats they let them go. They could not decide how to punish them, because all the people were praising God for what had happened.
> Peter and John come to the decision that their ultimate allegiance is to God. And that no power on earth, not even the Roman government had authority over God.
And the writer of the book of Acts, which is Luke, wants us to come to this clear understanding that over and above the power of the state is the power of God. >>>>>
So look what he says in chapter 5, verse 40. Acts 5:40:
They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.
They give them the same order and let them go.
The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.
> From the very beginning, Christians have struggled with: How do we relate to the governing powers? 
If you have your Bible, turn over to another passage: Romans 13. Paul gives some surprising advice here. 
Now, you might expect that under this kind of persecution that the church would say, “Let’s just take over the government. Let’s establish a new government. Let’s establish a Christian government.” They don’t do that. 
Although, several centuries later, beginning under an emperor by the name of Constantine, and the following rulers, Christianity does, in fact, become the official religion of the Roman Empire.  But a very interesting thing happens.
Question: when do you think Christianity did better:
when it was a persecuted minority.
or when it held power together with the government. 
It’s pretty amazing that Christianity flourished when it was a persecuted minority as apposed to when it held power. >>>>>
Stephen Carter, in his book, “The Culture of Disbelief,” notes that
“In our country, the original reason for the separation of church and state was not to protect the government from religion. It was to protect religion — people of faith — from the government.” -Stephen Carter,
> There are many countries in Europe that have state churches that are officially tied to the government. They have government-recognized status and power.
If you’ve spent any time studying the church in Europe you know that, to put it mildly, they are not thriving.
Because when the government gets involved in religion, the faith tends to get watered down to the lowest common denominator. It loses its essential distinctiveness. 
>>>>> So, now, Paul is writing to the church at Rome, and this is what he says:
Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.
Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 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 he will commend you.
For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.
Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.
This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.
> Now, look back at the first verse:
Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities.
Let’s just think this one through.
We need to understand that this statement was a radical shift in Paul’s day. Because, historically, the Israelites had thought of themselves as a nation.
They were going to have their own form of government.
They were going to have their own land.
And now, Paul says, “It’s no longer the goal of the people of God to have their own independent state.” This is a drastic change. 
Paul says, “Every person is to submit to the state; no exceptions, no exemptions.” 
Now, in a democracy this means things like: we’re to be involved.
It means things like: if we’re going to participate in the common life, we ought to vote.
It means we ought to be informed.
And we don’t always do a good job of that. 
A woman said to Adlai Stevenson one time, who was an unsuccessful candidate for the presidency, she said, “Mr. Stevenson, you have the vote of every thinking American.”
And Adlai Stevenson said, “Madam, that’s not enough. I need a majority.”
We don’t always do a good job of getting informed. 
Now, an interesting thing about this text is that the conclusion is about paying taxes.
And we know from reading historians back in those days that there were all kinds of complaints about the Roman taxation system, which were so strong that a little after Paul wrote this letter, they had to reform the tax code. 
Hard as is to believe, people actually tried to get out of paying taxes back in those days.
They didn’t want to pay for Roman roads.
They didn’t want to pay for Roman soldiers.
They didn’t want to build the new coliseum in Rome. 
A Christian financial advisor estimates that, from working with Christians, 50 percent of people who are followers of Christ cheat on their income taxes. 50 percent! >>>>>
Look at verse 6. It’s right there. The IRS agent is the servant of God.
This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing.
> So, if you want just one real practical take-away from today, it’s this: pay your taxes.
Pay them with joy.
Put a little happy face on your check when you send it in.
Write a little note that says, “Thanks for being God’s servant and collecting my taxes.” 
Now, I want to say this, be very careful to understand the context of this passage. It can be misused.
In fact, the Nazis in Germany misused this passage by saying Christians had to support Hitler, no matter what he did. 
Now, we’ve already seen from the book of Acts that the Bible supports civil disobedience when rulers outlawed the preaching of the gospel. So the basic principle of this text is in verse 7: >>>>>
Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.
> And that’s what I’d like to talk about for the rest of the time we have today, pay to all what is due them. 
Our ultimate allegiance, of course, is to God. And it may well be, a lot of scholars think, that in verse 7, Paul is reflecting on the words of Jesus, when He says:
Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar. Give to God what belongs to God.
Alright, let’s draw out some principles here.  The first one is this:
God’s purpose of salvation is not to be identified with any one country’s well-being.
God’s purpose of salvation is not to be identified with any one country’s well-being.  All nations have a way of thinking that they’re God’s favorite. 
I grew up in a church that had German roots. And there was a debate in the early days of that church about whether the Bible should be read in German or in English. This was the kind of conversations they had back then.
One time I asked someone about why certain prayers are said in German and the response I got was, “Some people believe God hears better in German.” 
Now, C.S. Lewis wrote once that one of the primary strategies of the evil one is to promote what he called, “Christianity and …” Christianity and … 
In other words, if the evil one can’t get people to reject Christianity outright, he will try to get them to fuse it into some other movement or philosophy or cause, so that they are no longer committed to what he called, “Mere Christianity.”
And one of the primary ways of doing that is to have people equate Christian faith with some particular political ideology or agenda. And it has happened throughout the history of the church.
So, we just need to be clear on this. The gospel of Jesus Christ transcends every country, every political agenda, every cause, and every party. 
The Word of God stands above them all as the sole authority and judge. 
And the community that expresses God’s dream for this world is his church. 
It’s not a nation, or a culture or a society.
They have their place, but they are not the bride of Christ. And when they have dried up and withered away, it is the church that through all eternity will be the cherished object of God’s love. 
Now, this has important implications. And I want to reflect for a moment on what Jesus would not do with His life.
There was one situation in His life in John 6, where Jesus fed 5,000 people with a few loaves and fish, and the people want to make Him king.
And it’s easy to understand why. I mean, if He could take a few loaves and fish and feed 5,000 people, think of what he could do with one sword and one chariot and one horse. He could arm a nation.
And so there was a movement in His day of people called, “zealots,” and they wanted Him to overthrow what was, in fact, an oppressive government. >>>>>
This is what John 6:15 says:
Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.
> Jesus wasn’t interested in going into politics. 
Now, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad business. It’s an honorable profession. People need to be involved in it. But it wasn’t His business. It wasn’t His mission.
His business was to advance the kingdom of God, and He would not be turned aside, and He made no apologies about it. 
Now, I just want to say a word about Blue Oaks, because our business, our purpose, is to advance the kingdom of God; which means we will never align this church in a formal way with some political movement or cause.
We are in the business of the gospel.
We are in the business of being the church.
We are in the business of proclaiming in word and in deed the good news of the availability of life in the kingdom of God.
We will not deviate from this.
We will not be distracted from this.
We will not be turned aside from this.
And we do it with no apologies, no hesitations, no second thoughts.
We are in the business of the gospel. 
There’s a book called “The Political Illusion.” And the political illusion in our day is that there is a political solution for every problem in life.
We don’t ever hear a candidate who’s running for office say, “Well, that’s something we just can’t solve.” We’re just fed that there’s a political solution for every problem. 
But there’s not. We’re not going to reach the kingdom of God by getting everyone on the same political page.
Chuck Colson, who had some experience in this area said, “The kingdom of God is not going to arrive on Air Force 1.”
God’s instrument is the church. 
Alright, so the first thing is: God’s purpose of salvation is not to be identified with any one country’s well-being. His plan for the world is that the church would advance the kingdom of God. 
Second thing, and this comes right out of the beginning of Romans. And that is:
We are to honor our leaders.
We are to pay honor and respect to those who govern. And we are to be involved with politics, but that involvement should come with an understanding of the way Jesus Christ taught us to live, and act, and treat other people.
Let me say that again: you and I are to be involved in government, but we must be involved in politics with an understanding of the life Jesus Christ taught us to live. >>>>>
1 Timothy 2 says:
1 Timothy 2:1-2
I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone — for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.
And then he talks about a very practical outcome for this. Part of this is simply wise strategy for the church:
that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.
> Honor those who are in leadership, and engage in politics with an understanding of Jesus’ teachings. 
Now let me put this to you in the form of a question: Have you ever noticed that people tend to behave badly toward those that they disagree with politically? Have you ever notice that? 
Well, it’s been going on for a long time. 
Winston Churchill had a lifelong battle with a woman named, Nancy Astor – Lady Astor, who was the first woman member of Parliament in Great Britain.
There were many hostile exchanges between the two of them.
In one of them, Lady Astor got furious with Churchill and said to him, “If you were my husband, I’d put poison in your coffee.”
And Churchill’s response was, “Lady Astor, if you were my wife, I’d drink it.”
It just got dirty between the two of them. 
Another time, Lady Astor said to him, because he was known to drink occasionally, she said to him, “Mr. Churchill, you are very drunk.”
And he said, “That’s true. But you are very ugly. And in the morning, I shall be indisputably sober.”
They were horrible toward each other. 
People tend to get hostile toward people they disagree with politically. And I want to get real serious about this for a moment.
Think about it like this: Think for a moment about the way we’re to relate to each other in the church.
As the family of God, we would say:
We’re going to treat each other with the kind of love that God has towards us.
We’re not going to gossip about each other.
We’re not going to listen to half-truths about each other.
We’re not going to tolerate slander.
We’re not going to allow rumors to go unchecked.
And I’ll just be as frank as I can be about this. Those of us who name the name of Jesus should never slander each other because of political views; or talk about each other with cruelty or sarcasm.
Now, understand my spirit on this; I’m not pointing the finger at anyone. I’m guilty of this myself. 
And here’s how we recognize it: when your heart starts to go bad on this one, you begin to want to believe bad things about people with whom you disagree politically. 
Understand here, I’m not saying everyone has to agree on everything politically. This cuts much deeper than that. We begin to want to believe bad things about people. 
And when this dynamic gets going, you don’t want to believe good things about them; you want bad things to be true and you hunger to hear them, and to spread them. You tend to exaggerate their bad qualities, ignore their good ones. You no longer think of them as flesh-and-blood people, who have a mother and a father, a husband or a wife, children, friends. They become the enemy. 
Philip Yancey wrote a very thoughtful book, called “The Jesus I Never Knew.” And he makes this comment towards the end of it: >>>>>
“Regardless of the merits of a given issue, whether a pro-life lobby on the right, or a peace-and-justice lobby on the left, political movements risk pulling onto themselves the mantle of power that smothers love. From Jesus I learn that whatever the activism I get involved in, it must not drive out love and humility. Otherwise, I betray the kingdom of heaven.” -Philip Yancey
> And I believe that we should be concerned in our day about language that divides sides up simplistically into good guys and bad guys. 
I’ll give you an example on this one. This is a harmless example in my opinion.
Take the issue of prayer in public schools. 
Now, when I was in elementary school, I prayed a lot:
I prayed for good grades.
I prayed for Jennifer to like me.
I prayed to make it home without getting beat up by the boys who liked my sister. 
Okay, now, this is my opinion: I don’t want the state to teach my children how to pray.
Their teachers may be Muslim.
And I believe freedom of religion is a good thing.
Many Americans have bled and fought and suffered and died for freedom of religion, for the freedom of people to pray freely.
But I don’t want my children to be taught how to pray by someone who’s praying to another god, or to be taught a kind of a bland, nonpartisan prayer to an unnamed God.
I want my children to be taught about prayer from their mom and dad and from their church. 
Now, I recognize that many Christians favor some form of prayer or a moment of silence in school. And that’s an okay thing, but here’s the point I want to make.
When people make it sound like there’s only one Christian position on an issue like this, and it becomes a case of good guys against the bad guys, we’re not honoring the cause of Christ.
The writers of Scripture say we’re to be involved in our government process:
We should be informed.
We should be voting.
We should be activists.
But we’re to do it humbly, with an understanding of the teachings of Jesus Christ.
And we’re to do it in a way that’s honorable towards all people, particularly to those who lead us. 
Alright, last thing:
Our political attitudes and involvement must reflect the whole counsel of God.
I want to read a passage form Amos, chapter 4. We started this series by looking at this passage.
And while we look at this passage, I want you to think about this:
Why is it that those who express the most passionate concern about the declining sexual morality in our country, they’re the ones who often say so little about how we’re going to help babies who are born in the ghetto; who stand a better chance of going to prison than going to college? 
And on the other hand, why is it that those who express the most passionate concern for equality, very often, are least likely to express concern about the tragedy of millions of abortions taking place year after year after year?
You see, we are called, as followers of Christ, to have a whole gospel approach to living as citizens under the state. 
Look at Amos, chapter 4, the first few verses.
I want to talk, for just a moment, about the kind of concerns that we need to carry with us, as we think about our community and our government and so on. 
And one that just runs right through the Bible from beginning to the end is the poor. 
Look at this from the prophet Amos: >>>>>
Hear this word, you cows of Bashan on Mount Samaria, you women who oppress the poor and crush the needy and say to your husbands, “Bring us some drinks!”
The Sovereign LORD has sworn by his holiness: “The time will surely come when you will be taken away with hooks, the last of you with fishhooks.
You will each go straight out through breaks in the wall, and you will be cast out toward Harmon,” declares the LORD.
> Now, look at the metaphor he uses at the very beginning of the very first verse:
Hear this word, you cows of Bashan.
Now, Amos uses this particular metaphor that is not a compliment. If there’s any doubt in your mind, he does not expect people to feel affirmed by this.
He talks about how deeply the oppression of the poor and lack of compassion for the needy is a part of God’s agenda. 
If you were to read through the Bible, you would find that there are three social categories in the Old Testament that are repeated most often: the orphan, the widow and the poor.
It’s boldly clear, if you study the Bible carefully, if you look through the Old Testament and allow the Bible to speak for itself that the basic way the prophets said that this society will be judged by God is its treatment of what Jesus would call, “the least of these.” The oppressed, or the marginalized, or the vulnerable people in a society. 
In the New Testament, Jesus had more to say about money and the poor than any other topic besides the kingdom of God. >>>>>
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
> We ought to have a heart of compassion for the poor.
We ought to be concerned with the sanctity of life.
We ought to be concerned with the sanctity of life of all people… including those who are not yet born.
We ought to be involved, not just at the level of legislation, but also to change the attitude and the conscience of a nation.
Christians ought to lead the way on environmental issues. The environment is not a government issue. It’s God’s issue because it’s God’s environment. We ought to lead the way on this one. We shouldn’t allow someone else to claim that issue.
Christians ought to be concerned with efforts at peace-making. “For blessed are the peacemakers.” Who will work for peace, if not the church? And how are we going to have the moral credibility to make peace, to be peacemakers, if we’re not being the church in the world?
Christians ought to be concerned with racial alienation that tears this country apart. Paul says that Jesus died to tear down the dividing wall of hostility that separated Jew and Gentile, this great ethnic chasm of his day. And we live in a society that is just filled with dividing walls of hostility and Jesus died to tear them down. If followers of Christ are not involved in tearing down the walls that alienate people, we’re making a joke of the cross. It’s not an option.
Christians should be concerned with education. We ought to be concerned about the education of our children. We ought to be concerned about the education of every child.
We ought to be concerned for a kind of society that values family, that promotes family, that promotes the kind of moral values that build character and enable people to be Christ-followers, to be salt and light in the world. 
Now, in the church, we need to be aware, and this is so important, there will be differences among well-intended believers about how these values and goals will be achieved. There will be differences about strategy. We need to be aware of that. 
And we need to handle those differences in Christ-honoring ways. 
We need to be informed and we need to be involved, in light of the teachings of Jesus, in light of God’s heart for this world. But we must also be grace-filled, humble people, who don’t have all the answers. 
We’ve got to live it in the realization that the hope of the world at the end of the day is the gospel of Jesus Christ and His bride, the church. 
And I want to close by asking us all to pray together for our country and for our church.
Blue Oaks Church