When Faith and Law collides
Categories: Shuzia Magazine,
As humans living within a political system, it is impossible to avoid laws and regulations, irrespective of our faith. Thus, even as Christians living in obedience to God’s will, our lives are completely intertwined in the tangle of law and politics. Being Christian does not exclude an individual from exercising their civic rights. These include state and legal protection rights and even voting and forming political parties.
The Bible gives us a responsibility to obey governing authorities and be good citizens. A Christian rebelling against the authorities rebels against God’s institution and brings judgment on himself (Romans 13:2). How, then, do we live out these responsibilities under our Christian faith? What happens when the principles of our faith fall in deep contrast with the system of law and governance we live in?
The Role of God in Law and Politics
Understanding the role of God in law and politics is a necessary step to handling political and legal matters as a Christian. Romans 13:1, 3-6 shows that God has ordained human governance for the good of man. Rulers are a terror to bad conduct, the one in authority is an avenger inflicting God’s wrath on the wrongdoer, and one must obey to avoid God’s wrath and for conscience’s sake.
In this light, one can easily see law and politics as a method God uses to accomplish His will. However, especially in the current times that we live in, can we say all of the laws and leaders in authority have been instituted by God to accomplish His will?
Looking at the biblical history of law and politics in a God-ordained system, the nation of Israel relied on God, through his priest(s), for the appointment of their political leaders (1 Samuel 9; 16; 1 Kings 1:28) and even the institution of their laws (Exodus 19-20; Leviticus). Whenever they stepped out of God’s will, their rulers did horrible things, and God often punished the entire nation severely for it (2 Kings 17). There are also biblical instances where God decided to punish the leaders of other nations for their iniquity against Him (Jeremiah 25:12).
Going by the above, it is clear that God’s initial design for law and politics was to be a human system of living out God’s purpose through His inspiration. The just purposes for which God allowed the human political and legal system are to commend good, punish evil, maintain peace, and protect the oppressed. Only for the fulfillment of these purposes did God give human governance so much power, even to take lives (Genesis 9:6).
He originally meant these systems for good, although in current circumstances, evil men have taken over and are now driving them to fulfill their evil purposes.
Law and Politics or God?
One important lesson to be learned from the political story of the nation of Israel is that the will of God is sovereign over everything else. (Matthew 6:33). The implication is that where legal and political matters contrast with God’s will and principles, our duties as Christians are, first and foremost, to God. Our obedience is to God over men (Acts 5:29), and we must strive to do right by God, even when the law says otherwise (Exodus 1:17; 20-21).
We are to adhere to the mandate to obey governing authorities, fulfill our duties as citizens in our respective nations, and even pray for our leaders (Romans 13:1-8). However, we must also know that our mission as Christians is not to devote all our energy to political reformation and government matters. Our hope is in God; God’s will is ultimate and will come to pass with or without the existence of a political system, and our mission is to change the world by turning hearts to God, not through political activism.
Consequently, as Kingdom citizens living our daily lives in a worldly system, we are to obey the law as far as it aligns with God’s sovereign will. Our obedience to the system is only subject to our obedience to God, and we are to fulfill all duties and obligations, including paying taxes and playing our part to maintain law and order for the good of the system.
Political participation is never a do-or-die affair. Our Christian mission is not to be activists for the human system but for the kingdom of God. Any Christian with a calling to delve into the world of politics must stay in the constant awareness that, ultimately, his life is for the fulfillment of God’s purpose and not to drive the interests of mere men. Ultimately, we must constantly seek God’s guidance in fulfilling our civic duties, and we must not forget to keep shining our lights and touching our lives even as we go about these legal and political activities.
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