What's a Christian to do in such a volatile political climate? Should we just turn away shaking our heads in consternation and retreat into isolation? Should we adopt an attitude of futility thinking it doesn't matter who is elected because nothing is going to change? Should we look at the political world from a prophetic perspective hoping for the world to blow up so as to facilitate the sooner return of Jesus? All of these stances are possibilities for the Christian to take. But if the Christian is going to be scripturally sound I think it best to take a deep breath, pray, and then do what we can do in the governmental system God has sovereignly birthed us in or brought us to. What do the scriptures say about the Christian's role in politics?
The apostle Peter wrote his first epistle to Christians who were persecuted pilgrims displaced from their homes and lands by a government that persecuted them. Peter's words in this letter to the persecuted is very pertinent for us today. Christians are more and more marginalized in the media and social discourse of our day. If you are paying attention and observing how Christians are verbally attacked and ridiculed, you probably are beginning to wonder how long before verbal attacks get physical. The political climate of our day is like a weather front of dark storm clouds persecution forming on the horizon. Political dialogue is the arena we are called to take a stand in. Politics plays a big role in challenging people to take a stand and express their viewpoints.
I don't believe Christians have the option to simple stay out of this fray. I think part of the reason we are seeing such immoral and sinful degeneracy in our land is because we as Christians have adopted a political pacifist stance of noninvolvement. We are reaping what we have sowed. I'm not blaming all our nation's problems on Christian political inactivity. But I do think we need to prayerfully reflect on our personal responsibility that what we see in our world today has happened on our watch. We need to seek the Lord for direction in the political arena. I don't think we should become obsessed with politics. But I also don't think we should ignore politics. We have to find a scriptural balance. That's where Peter's inspired words come in.
As I mentioned Peter wrote to Christians who were severely persecuted by the government under which they lived. They weren't blessed with a democracy. There Caesar was deified. They were under considerably worse political conditions than we are today. With this in mind, what was Peter inspired by God to tell them about how to relate to their government? Let's see.
1 Peter 2:13a – “Therefore submit yourselves. . . .
In this verse the "Therefore" links what Peter has said previously about how living hope. Living hope is faith for the future that endures and lives on. It begins when we are born again and it is cultivated as we grow in God's word and our relationship with Jesus (1 Peter 1 - 2:12). What follows is a consideration by Peter of practical life settings in which we live out living hope. Being a good citizen is the first life environment considered by Peter for instruction. This tells us Peter gave politics or citizenship a priority of importance for the believer. He speaks about citizenship, work relations, and marriage, but he speaks first about how these Christians were to live in their political environment. Maybe this was because this area of life was the most dangerous and life threatening for them.
What did Peter tell these pilgrims? Did he tell them to rebel? Did he tell them to demonstrate? Did he tell them to take up arms and fight? What did Peter, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, tell these persecuted pilgrims to do?
The general attitude for those living out living hope in the world is cooperation/submission. The first thing Peter advises us to do in living out living hope in all these areas of life is to "submit yourselves." The phrase "submit yourselves" (Greek hypotasso ) means to subordinate yourself, to obey, be under obedience, put under, be subject to, submit yourself to. The grammar used by Peter here (huptagete - Aorist/Passive/Imperative) conveys the idea of a necessary or mandatory action. Peter is speaking of an imperative; a necessity; a required mindset and action to do. It's important that as Christians living out living hope we make it a priority to cooperate with authority by submitting to it.
Satan rebels. Saints submit. Satan rebelled against God and His rule. Saints are followers of Jesus and yield their lives to Him. They yield and submit to God because they have been redeemed by the blood of Christ. Jesus in effect bought us with His blood (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Job said it well, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD" (Job 1:21). Like Job, who suffered greatly, we are to rest in the LORD and trust His plans even if His plans involve suffering and loss. God knows best. He oversees the universe and He alone knows what is best. We need to submit to Him and His will by faith.
When we look at history we see there is indeed a time to resist and even rebel against injustice. But whenever we consider such resistance and rebellion we must do so with great care because Satan is always seeking to lure people into rebellion. Our sinful nature is at heart rebellious. In circumstances where rebellion and resistance seem warranted we need to proceed prayerfully and make every effort to walk in the Spirit and make sure we are submitting to God's will. Otherwise we will become pawns of the devil and do much harm.
This cooperative and submissive attitude is explained by Peter to apply to politics, the work place, the family unit, and in the church. As we move on in the letter we see this applies even in circumstances involving persecution. Cooperation and submission is an important part of living out living hope. It doesn't mean we live as Millard or Mildred Milquetoasts. But sometimes it takes more faith and courage to cooperate and submit. In the end our objective is to glorify God. And a spirit of cooperation and submission is a powerful tool to see this happen.
1 Peter 2:13-17 – “Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme,14 or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good.15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men—16 as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God.17 Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.”
Cooperation and submission is the attitude and rule of thumb for the Christian to follow. Our inclination and objective is to cooperate with and submit ourselves "to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, . . . " "Every ordinance" (Greek ktisis ) means creation of, building of, ordinance of "of man" (Greek anthropinos ) or common to man, human origins, after the manner of men. This would include man made laws of government and government systems. The bottom line is Christians are to make every effort to live as law-abiding citizens.
Those sent by the king or government authorities as extensions of authority are to be submitted too. The purpose of government according to Peter here is that they are ordained, "as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good." Governments are meant to keep the order and peace of society. They punish evildoers and praise those who do good. One commentary states:
Although believers are citizens of heaven, they should obey civil laws while on earth. They should "submit" themselves (hupotagete, subordinate, be in subjection, as in 3:22) to every "ordinance" (ktisei, institution) of man for the Lord's sake, and should honor the king as being "supreme" (huperechonti, prime authority, having superiority) in his earthly realm. Christians should obey their earthly king, Peter said, as long as it did not require disobeying their heavenly King. Sometimes Christians have to choose between the two loyalties (see Acts 4:19,20), but Peter made it clear that Christians should be on the side of law and order.
Why should we submit to secular or worldly authorities? What is the motive and purpose for such submission to government? Why is it important to cooperate and submit to authority? Peter states, " For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men—16 as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God.17 Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.” Let's consider the reasons for Christians to cooperate and submit to governmental authorities.
First it is God's will for us to live submissively and cooperatively with human authorities. "For this is the will of God." If you want to live in the will of God then cooperate and submit to the authority in which God has sovereignly placed you. The sinful nature is by nature rebellious. The sinful nature wants to rebel just like Satan rebelled against God. By cooperating and submitting instead of rebelling against government authorities we learn humility and grow in Christ-likeness. God uses cooperation with and submission to authority as a means or instrument to humble us and purify us of pride. There are times when resistance, opposition and even rebellion are called for, but if at all possible we are to work for righteous change within the human government system and its ordinances as much as possible. For instance, it is hypocritical and I think sinful for Christians to complain and criticize our government if they haven't at least cooperated with our democracy and voted. Historians look back on the Christian vote or lack thereof and see evidence that had Christians voted in greater proportions, our nation might have looked significantly better than it does today.
Second, cooperation and submission to human authority is God's means to silence ignorant and foolish people. Peter says, " that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men. . . " "Doing good" (Greek agathopoieo) means to be a well-doer, do good, to do something that profits or benefits others, to help someone, to do someone a favor, to do well, do right, to act correctly, to act within the law. Working within the government system we are to actively do good and work to benefit others. This is the political action we are to involve ourselves with when we live out living hope. We can do good verbally by being informed and voicing righteous views in political debate. We can do good physically by contributing to those in need and actually getting out there and doing some good.
When we do good as law abiding citizens looking to help others it will "put to silence" (Greek phimoo ) or muzzle, put to silence, make speechless, cause to be still, still, close the mouth of, reduce to silence, keep in check, tie shut "the ignorance" (Greek agnosia ) or ignorance, lack of knowledge, lack of spiritual knowledge "of foolish men" (Greek aphron ) or men who are mindless, stupid, ignorant, egotistic, morally unbelieving, unwise, without reason, without reflection or intelligence, who act rashly. There's a lot of ignorance and a lot of foolishness in the social debate of our day. The best defense against political foes is a life lived righteously in living hope. A fool is someone who fails to factor God in to their life equation or world view (e.g. Psalm 14 and 53). We need to reasonably and effectively introduce God and His word into the political conversation. It only seems awkward now because Christians have been delinquent in their prayers, study, and readiness to give a reason for the hope that is in us.
There will always be those who accuse Christians of being bigoted, haters, intolerant, unloving, partial and prejudiced. Christians should not expect a fair playing field. The media for instance has preconceived assumptions about Christians and does not treat them fairly. The best defense and response to unjust accusations is a life that lives righteously in living hope. When we live in love and stand for justice, and live righteously before our God then those who are basically fair minded will be swayed and the false accusations will abate. That is not always the case as we well know. We as Christians can't expect to be treated fairly in a fallen media or governmental world. But when we stand we must be willing to stand within the system and serve faithfully even when unjustly accused. We need to believe and obey God's word in this regard and trust that God will work things out for His purposes and glory. God has our back. His eternal agenda may require we experience injustices and persecutions at times. His eternal plans and the saving of souls takes priority over our individual "rights," even the inalienable rights ordained by God for each person.
Third, cooperate and submit to human authority freely and not only by compulsion. Peter states, " as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God." Even though we cooperate and submit to human authority we are in reality free people in the Lord. We should not use our "freedom" in Christ to hide or "cloak" (Greek epkalumma - veil, cover ) "vice" (Greek kakias - evil, spite, wickedness (cf. 1 Peter 2:1). We aren't free to disregard or rebel against human authority but we are free to cooperate and submit to it. Corrupt Christians are blasphemous to God's reputation. We need to act righteously holding to God's standards in private as well as public domains. And our motive for this is not merely to be patriotic to human governments but because we are "bondservants of God" (Greek douloi theou - willing servants of God, servants of God by choice in love ). The apostles often referred to themselves as bondservants or servants of God (e.g. Romans 1:1; James 1:1; 2 Peter 1:1). Everyone is a servant of someone; either to God or to sin (cf. 2 Peter 2:19). We belong to God in Christ (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). When we take in and obey the words of God it gives us the proper perspective on this freedom (e.g. John 8:31-32).
Fourth, use your spirit of cooperation and submission to " Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.” "Honor" (Greek timao) means to value someone, to respect people, to fix a value on people, to honor. We are to honor "all people." In our day and age the attitude is that honor and respect has to be earned. But here Peter is inspired to tell us to begin with or from the start accept it as a given from God that all people are to be honored and respected. We honor people because they are created by God in His image and as such are valuable (e.g. Genesis 1:26).
"Love" (Greek agapao) means to welcome, entertain, be fond of, to love dearly. This is the term used to refer to God's love for us. He loved us when we were still sinners (Romans 5:8). He sent His only Son Jesus to redeem us from sin (John 3:16). This is a love that takes the initiative. It is a love that is freely offered not earned by others. We are to love God supremely and love others sacrificially (cf. Matthew 22:34-40). It is a love that continues to give even when not appreciated. This "love" is how we are to treat those of the "brotherhood" (Greek adelphotes) or brotherhood, Christian fraternity, brethren, family of brothers, family of God. It is a tremendous testimony to the world of the power of the gospel when those who would normally be in opposition to one another or prejudiced against each other in the world are changed and transformed in Christ and united in the church. Love is God's instrument for such an impressive reconciling work.
"Fear" (Greek phobeo - Present/Middle/Imperative) can mean always fear, be afraid, or terrified, but when used in relation to "God" it means always revere, always respect, always worship. When we live our living hope and it comes to being cooperative and submissive to human authority we do that not merely to please people or submit in fear of legal consequences but we do that as an act of reverence, respect and worship toward God. When we as citizens of the United States are given the opportunity to vote we should do so for a candidate that best fits God's scripture parameters of righteousness. And as in this present election cycle, that means we may have to vote for the lesser of two evils. But we need to vote. When we do that, even when candidates are less or even far less than righteous (they are human and therefore imperfect) we honor God.
We are to "honor the king" or our political leaders. It's easy to point out the flaws and sins of political figures. But in doing so we should always maintain a healthy respect for them. They are meant to be God's instruments to maintain order and peace. Granted, politicians and government leaders frequently if not always in some way fall short of God's standards. When they do we should voice our concerns in the legal system of government. If there are injustices we need to work within the parameters of that government as much as possible. And if as a last resort we do indeed need to oppose unjust governments and unjust political leaders we do so maintaining respect and not with malice or viciousness.
These verses in 1 Peter tell us to cooperate with government officials. This is not the only place where support is encouraged for government. Peter here tells us to submit and obey our government officials. Paul also encourages us to cooperate with government officials (Romans 13:1-7). Paul states that God has allowed governments to come into power and that therefore we are to work with such governments. Governments are put in place to serve the Lord and assert God’s will on earth. This support we offer includes paying taxes.
In Paul’s letter to Timothy he states that we should make praying for our government a priority (1 Timothy 2:1-4). The peaceful and orderly environment brought about by government provides opportunity to share the gospel. The Christian's responsibility to government is to recognize God’s ordained leadership, pay taxes and pray for those government leaders.
Governments need God. The United States is a country founded by Christians and based on Christian principles from the Bible. The secular world has tried to cut this truth out of our history but we ought not allow them to do so. If our Christian foundation is cut out and discarded our country will inevitably fall. Government without God is hopeless.
The United States was founded by men whose hope was in God. They knew how essential God was to the survival and success of the nation. Read some of the following quotes about our Christian foundation and its essential place in our government:
- “I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth – that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings, that ‘except the Lord build the House, they labor in vain that build it.’ I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without His concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better, than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and bye word down to the future ages. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing Governments by Human wisdom and leave it to chance, war and conquest.
I therefore beg leave to move – that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the clergy of this city be requested to officiate in that service” – Benjamin Franklin, The Constitutional Convention, June 28th, 1787. 
- “And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever.” – Thomas Jefferson 
· “No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than those of the United States. Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency . . . . We ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained.” – George Washington, Inaugural speech to Congress, April 30th, 1789
· “Had the people, during the Revolution, had a suspicion of any attempt to war against Christianity, that Revolution would have been strangled in its cradle. At the time of the adoption of the Constitution and the amendments, the universal sentiment was that Christianity should be encouraged, not any one sect [denomination]. Any attempt to level and discard all religion would have been viewed with universal indignation.” – House Judiciary Committee report, March 27th, 1854
· “It is the duty of nations as well as men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgression in humble sorrow yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon, and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history: that those nations only are blessed whose God is the LORD.” – Abraham Lincoln 
· The Church must take right ground in regard to politics . . . .The time has come that Christians must vote for honest men, and take consistent ground in politics or the Lord will curse them . . . God cannot sustain this free and blessed country, which we love and pray for, unless the Church will take right ground. Politics are a part of religion in such a country as this, and Christians must do their duty to the country as a part of their duty to God.” – Charles Finney 
· “The Bible, the Word of God, has made a unique contribution in shaping the United States as a distinctive and blessed nation . . . . Deeply held convictions springing from the Holy Scriptures led to the early settlement of our Nation . . . . Biblical teaching inspired concepts of civil government that are contained in our Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States.” – United States Congress Public Law 97-280 96 STAT. 1211, October 4th, 1982 
When governments and God’s word come into conflict the believer must follow God’s word. God’s word takes precedence over human law. This is exemplified in the book of Acts where the apostles stood up to religious leaders and stated, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:19-20). And, We ought to obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29). This latter portion of scripture refers to religious traditionalists but the principle is nonetheless applicable.
“We ought to obey God rather than men.” Christians are pilgrims of God just passing through this world and on our way through we ought to remind our government leaders that their only hope is the living hope God provides in Christ. We are directed by God to cooperate and submit to governments, human laws, and political leaders as much as possible, but when human law and government supports injustice and unrighteousness and sin the Christian living out living hope must stand up and oppose it. We begin by working within the system and law as much as possible. But there may come a time when Christians must become agents of change and opposition. At what point do we resist the government? The answer to that question is a matter of walking in the Spirit and following our conscience. If we do oppose or feel rebellion is the righteous way then physical opposition must begin with peaceful demonstration. The physical, violent, military opposition toward an unjust government and its unjust leaders exemplified by our founding fathers is one I hope we never have to encounter again. It is the product of much prayer and soul searching in the presence of God. And we need to be on our knees praying, "God help us. God lead us. May all we ever do be according to Your will and glorifying to Your name." But until that time, pray, study up and get out and vote!
 Complete Biblical Library Commentary - The Complete Biblical Library – Hebrews-Jude.
 Taken from Parker Hudson’s book , The President, (Sisters, Oregon: Multnomah Books, 1995) p. 15.
 Parker Hudson, Ibid., p. 43
 Parker Hudson, Ibid., p. 137
 Parker Hudson, Ibid., p. 351
 Parker Hudson, Ibid., p. 162
 Parker Hudson, Ibid., p. 435
 Parker Hudson, Ibid., 331