Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God…For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good…This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants…Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor (Romans 13:1,4,6,7).
Ontario is immersed in all that attends to an imminent political election: lawn signs; radio & TV pitches; attack ads; promises, promises, promises – and it all can get pretty tiresome.
But it is part of the democratic process. And the process is intended to produce good government.
All of which raises the central question: what is good government?
The Bible lays down principles for government – and whether those who govern are followers of Christ or not, they will be accountable to God for governing consistent with these timeless values that transcend culture:
- government is an institution created by God, and those who govern have a God-given mission to act as His ministers. Whether God is acknowledged and loved, or hated or denied, every government has been instituted to uphold and promote justice, to provide support (i.e. healthcare and education) for its people, and to protect from internal and external threats to security.
- every ruler stands or falls as permitted by God, and is to act with His delegated power. The point: no government has inherent power. All power exercised by governing authorities comes from God; therefore, human rulers are accountable to Him – under His sovereign authority – for how they use it.
- the church too, is a God-ordained institution. Although its mandate is different from that of the civil magistrates, the church is to be permitted by secular government to function in a safe and just culture as it seeks to encourage living biblically, practicing prayer, and promoting fellowship and worship. In some ways, the Christian community is called to be the conscience of a culture.
The original principle of “separation of church and state” demonstrated that each institution has a different mandate, a different function and purpose. Originally this principle was adopted to prevent governors from declaring a so-called “state church”. But our culture has distorted the concept, asserting a doctrine of exclusion of church from state. In recent days, that has gained traction to become a more vigorous attempt to silence voices promoting righteousness, and speaking against unjust laws.
God’s people – and God’s voice – are often shunted to the side.
But this is not new! In every dimension, men have sought to resist the sovereign authority of God Almighty. The Psalmist observed, Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the LORD and against his anointed, saying, “Let us break their chains and throw off their shackles” (Psalm 2:1-3).
But there is coming a day when each governing official will give an account to the Source of all authority.
Takeaway: It’s easy to be cynical. But Paul’s instructions to Timothy impose an obligation on every believer in every age: I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people —for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness (1 Timothy 2:1,2).