The picture below shows two views of an early German Baptist church located in St. Louis MO. This is the church I attended with my parents during the 1950s. The original congregation was established in 1849 and this particular building was built in 1889.
I remember there was a brick building to the left that had been used as a parsonage in its early days; during my childhood, it had been turned into an annex for children’s classes. I well remember that old building with its narrow basement passages and high-ceilinged upper level rooms. I also recall standing on the church building’s front steps and peering across the street to admire the beautiful, tree-lined park. It was such a peaceful setting.
The religion of Islam permits a man to divorce his wife through the thrice-repeated pronouncement of ṭalāq. Given today’s deadline for filing income taxes, plenty of folks all over the country — RIGHT NOW! — wish a simple “I divorce thee, I divorce thee, I divorce thee!” would suffice to sever the bonds that inextricably tie us to this overtaxing, overspending, insatiable monster called government.
Many American taxpayers find themselves in the untenable position of doing what they consider to be “right” (paying their taxes) and “wrong” (funding government’s irresponsible and socialist practices). Recall the pre-Revolution complaint “No Taxation Without Representation!” It was one basis for our Declaration of Independence. The concept is as relevant today.
What does the Bible teach? Is it biblical for a Christian to opt-out “for conscience’ sake” (Romans 13:5) ?
Aside: I ran across a Tweet and its blog rebuttal betwixt my two adult daughters. My (unsolicited!) contribution demanded more than 140 characters but elder daughter’s blog comments were disabled; thus my post here. Elder daughter’s first post (with younger daughter’s Tweet prominent) and a companion post are thought-provoking (recommended) reading.
Second Aside: Comments about same-sex marriage (which prompted the original Tweet/blog exchange) are reserved for another occasion.
Third Aside: If my comments here seem lop-sided, it’s only because elder daughter provided posts while younger daughter opined in a single Tweet.
… Enough disclaimers! Elder daughter’s post Married to Government makes many points with which I agree. I won’t address the Erick Erickson column, except to note I concur how laughable it is to employ euphemism (gay marriage vs. civil unions), the “mental gymnastics” that only promotes cognitive dissonance. Ugh!
So, let’s do as elder daughter proposes: reconsider Romans 13. By titling this post Divorced From Government, my hope is to draw balanced parallels between my elder daughter’s post and my own. She argues that many Christians blindly affirm the belief that Romans 13 dictates robotic fealty to government. She challenges this autopilot mindset.
For my part, I agree with her critique! Any Scripture passage viewed in isolation makes possible a myriad of errors. It’s appropriate to question how one may judiciously weigh Romans 13 (Paul’s treatise) against Peter’s Acts 5:29 declaration, “We will obey God rather than men.” Do Peter’s words contradict Paul’s?
Fourth Aside: My elder daughter describes Romans 13 as “the favorite Bible passage of would-be tyrants” − a debatable charge (in my view). Seldom have tyrants (would-be or otherwise) sought or needed Scripture’s imprimatur to justify their misdeeds. But I quibble.
Elder daughter supplies a compelling list of saints who stood firmly against oppressive rule. These saints keenly remind us of God’s infinite grace in the midst of grievous circumstances. However, if we focus only on their choice to obey God, we ignore the “parade of believers” who were subject to the tyrant’s brutal whim.
Having celebrated earlier this month the Resurrection of Christ, I reflect how unlike Peter (in Acts 5) Jesus was. In fact, when the soldiers came to seize Jesus, this same Acts 5 Peter drew his sword and cut off the ear of a slave. The Son of Man instantly admonished Peter: “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” (NIV)
Peter’s instinct was to wield his sword against an unjust arrest. Yet, in remarkable contrast, Jesus’ mission from the Father enabled him to surrender Himself to the soldiers. Neither man’s actions belie the truth of Romans 13 (that “there is no authority except that which God has established” NIV) nor, in my view, would either man’s actions condemn the other’s. They were both intent on fulfilling the Father’s will in their lives.
My elder daughter observes: “Most governments FAIL God’s standard ….” (She’s usually more circumspect about all or nothing statements than I am.) Still, I think she’d actually agree with my contention that ALL governments inevitably and repeatedly fail God’s standard.
So let’s return this discussion to April 15, 2013, and as elder daughter maintains, we must choose as did the Founders. When it comes to government diktat (in this instance, the payment of one’s income taxes), we each determine whether and when to prudently submit or stand in defiance. Neither action represents a superior position, but rather the call of God in an individual’s life.
May I humbly suggest that viewing the “witness of Scripture as a whole” requires balance wherein both submitting and standing in defiance must be compatible.
Men like Daniel are rare, but when our commitment is to serve the Lord, we know with confidence that we’re in His hands “to will and to work for His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13) The ultimate outcome belongs to Him.