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Biblical doctrine and govt

Taisa Tshuma
SHOULD Bible believers (the church) always obey and submit to the government?

Government is defined as a group of people mandated to administer a given jurisdiction. It is the seat of all lateral authority that is among humans.

Aspects of this article may be viewed in some circles as not politically correct because it is premised on the belief that the Bible is the truth and the infallible word of God.

The Bible has a lot to say about government and the way society should function. The Bible identifies the church and government as two separate centres that must coexist, each with useful roles to play.

The frequently referenced passage of scripture for many people on this topic is found in the letter to the Romans by the Apostle Paul.

In Romans 13, he says in verses 1-7 New English Version (ESV):”Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.

“2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority?

“Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.

“5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing.

“7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honour to whom honour is owed.”

To adequately understand the Bible, every verse must be read in context and the simplest way to do that is to look at the verses immediately before and those that come after the said scripture. The last verse of Romans 12 comes just before Romans 13 verse 1.

Romans 12 verse 21 King James Version (KJV) says: “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Before that, Romans 12 verse 18 says: “If it is possible, as much as lieth in you, live with all men”. Verse 19 says “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; l will repay, saith the Lord”.

In the KJV Bible, this whole section of scripture is titled Marks of the True Christian. The entire book of Romans is written to Christian believers in first century Rome, the centre of all political power in the known world at the time.

It is one continuous thought line and message because in the original transcripts, chapters and verses were not there.

If one then is of the Christian faith, the instructions are simple, obey and submit to the governing authorities that are over you. If those authorities are rogue, riot and mutiny are not God’s recommended way of dealing with it. He says trust God to get justice for you.

The bigger reason is that the knee-jerk reaction of the government powers to your disobedience and insubordination is to use force. Their power to do you harm is real. Acrimony and physical confrontation will almost always result in violence and one side has all the brawn and guns.

For believers, all of God’s word is supreme truth and also says He is,

“Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come:” (Ephesians 1:21)

Colossians 2:10 says:  “And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power.” The above scriptures and many others like them inform the believer that obedience and submission to God takes precedence over any earthly authorities.

While under Babylonian captivity the Bible records that:

“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter.

“If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.

“But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18).

These Old Testament saints defied a king in obedience to God because they knew and understood the first of the 10 commandments of God given on Mount Sinai and were not going to violate it for any reason.

Exodus 20:3:  “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”

The bravery to disobey the king was anchored in the definite knowledge of what God says about idol worship, hence the Bible says in Hosea 4:6:  “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge…”

In the New Testament a similar thing occurred when the Apostles were persecuted.

Acts 5:29:  “Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, ‘We ought to obey God rather than men”.

The result of such a faith stance is that a high ranking Pharisee by the name Gamaliel listened to the voice of reason and consequently the Apostles were released to continue with their assignment.

It has been laid bare therefore that theBible says obedience and submission to government must be done, unless it is in violation of God’s instructions.

Biblical obedience and submission are mentioned in respect to peaceful coexistence, just like in the case of wives and husbands, it is not to entrench oppression but to cultivate a balanced and fair life.

God is in no way saying Christians must cosy up to rogue governments, neither is he saying wives must endure their husbands’ tyranny and indulge their unGodly excesses.

God is no respecter of persons but truth, holiness and justice are his nature. (Romans 2:11 & 7:12).

John the Baptist spoke truth to power on what is widely seen as a personal morality issue. It worked out in a way that he eventually got beheaded for his efforts. (Mark 6 verses 17-29)

Jesus said of John the Baptist, that he was the greatest prophet born of woman. (Luke 7 verse 28).

In Zimbabwe, politicians and “gospelpreneurs” have of late established alliances of convenience. Many self-proclaimed and self-styled prophets have come out and openly endorsed certain political personalities.

Politicians have been seen clad in various church denomination attire at different times and addressing worshipers. It is a concatenation of events. Political bungling over the years has pushed millions to seek Divine solace in churches. To survive, politicians need population numbers and the church has them, so politicians are embarking on pulpit fishing expeditions.

For a politician, the work is cut out, win over the leadership and get the congregation.

Some have argued that politicians also have a constitutional right to freedom of assembly and association. Fair enough, however, what has irritated many people is the time spent showering politicians with praise and adoration by some church leaders.

This has fuelled speculation of unholy alliances between politicians and church leaders who are also in business at various levels. It appears there’s a trade-off, political favours for congregate votes.

If the praise and worship of politicians was deserved, one could probably be excused, but patching out potholes in urban areas, using taxpayers money should never be regarded as worthy of praise. Service delivery is a minimum.

A church leadership that goes on the pulpit to endorse a politician for doing the bare minimum of their mandate is questionable at the very least.

Sadly it seems Zimbabweans are quite comfortable to give and receive accolades for mediocrity. There’s no amount of scripture twisting that can be used to justify such shameful parasitic leveraging on the gospel.

The church must be the moral compass, where it speaks out against unGodly manoeuvring of which we have no shortage of.

  •  Tshuma is an entrepreneur and social commentator from Bulawayo. A former retail banking professional. Twitter @TaisaPT

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