Continuing our study in God at Work by Dr Gene Veith. Dr Veith examines the different vocations, callings, of the average Christian and right now our group is talking about “Calling as a Citizen”. As Dr Veith points out we are called to be good citizens in Romans 13. Despite the contemporary nonsensical propaganda, Christians are higher in the demographics as “good citizens”. Quick reminder, there are those who consider themselves “Christian”, but when you see the “fruits of their works”, i.e. church attendance, service, Bible study, prayer, groups, a lot of people talk a good game, and they’re something, but not Christian. This is evidenced by a lot of current research and by the hard cold fact that we are called to spiritual disciplines in the Bible and way too many today just disregard it.
So let’s be serious here, quit quibbling, there are those who are faithfully trying to live the Christian life and as part of that they strive to be good citizens.
Now, having said, that, as I often say, there is nothing in the Bible that says either God is to be stupid or we are. Of course one of the first objections to this idea of submitting to rulers is “guys like Hitler and Stalin?” No! Certainly the early Christian church had crackpot rulers. Nero and Caligula jump immediately to mind. All Roman citizens, Christians included, were required to “burn incense as a way to acknowledge the divinity of the Emperor”. Dr Veith refers to those who continue to witness to Christ in countries that legally forbid Christian evangelizing. Certainly Moslem countries, but secular states like China, Vietnam, Cuba, North Korea also persecute Christians for worship, witnessing, public prayer.
Dr Veith writes: “It is clearly not the calling of a ruler to oppress his people. his purpose, again, is to love and serve his neighbors – that is, his subjects. A good ruler will thus be one who works for their good.” (Dr Gene Veith God at Work p 105). This can obviously be subjective, I don’t like the ruler of Moldovia, so as a citizen I can see how he’s not serving the way I think he should. Well no! You may not think he is serving the public good, because it’s not your good, but unless he is actively persecuting, or making demands that a Christian, in general, would have to conscientiously refuse, he is serving the public good. He may not be doing it well, but he still has to be obeyed. That goes for providing physical protection for our persons and our property.
Now if the ruler makes laws that single out and penalize groups, e.g. requiring people to honor this leader like a “god”, somewhat the situation Dietrich Bonhoeffer was with Hitler, or the Roman Emperor Decius, the one who required incense to be burned as a sacrifice to himself. Christians refused, First Commandment, there is no other “god”, then God the Father. Pope Fabias and Alexander of Jerusalem, among many other Christians refused and were put to death. So no, we can’t get all Moral Majority and decide what is or isn’t acceptable unless it truly conflicts with our biblical understanding. However, we are called to disobey when we are called to violate something that would articulably be proscribed in the Bible. Such as the Christian doctor who refuses to perform an abortion. Bear in mind, as was the case with those who refused to burn incense, there is often a penalty. That we are prosecuted or harassed,as the disciples were, they were joyful that they were honored to suffer for Christ. It’s not a dishonor to suffer for Christ, but it will still be suffering and probably hold you up to public abuse. Spouses are called to mutually submit and serve, I think you could certainly make the case the if rulers are not being submissive and serving for the general good, then they are “acting outside of their vocation”.
Let’s talk about it some more, Wednesday mornings 10:30am. The coffee shop at the corner of Beaver and W King Sts in York, Pa. Parking is right behind the church walk about 50 yards east to the coffee shop. If you come for the first time, I will even buy you coffee.