By Michael J. Brooks
The apostle Paul exhorted Christians in Romans 13 to obey the government as God’s “deacon,” or servant, who punishes evil and upholds the good. In other words, government maintains civil order. This is important since an orderly society not only grants safety to its citizens, but also ensures the church works without hindrance.
However, the late scholar, Dr. Frank Stagg, used to contrast Romans 13 with Revelation 13. In the latter we read of a beast claiming obedience belonging only to God–a government that didn’t uphold good nor punish wrong. Christians refused to follow the beast and they suffered the consequences. Christian history is replete with examples of faithful saints who practiced civil disobedience and paid dearly for their fidelity to their faith.
With this notable exception, the Bible is clear that followers of Christ must obey their government. When we add the second admonition about paying taxes (Rom. 13: 6-7), and the word in 1 Timothy 2:1-2 about praying for those in authority, we have a trilogy of responsibilities.
Patriotism swells our hearts, but patriotism is more than a feeling! Following are some of the things we can do to demonstrate patriotism.
(1) Pray. The late U.S. Senate chaplain, Richard Halverson, noted that failing to pray for our political leaders is one of the greatest sins of the modern church. The admonition in 1 Timothy doesn’t say only to pray for those with whom we agree. Surely Paul didn’t agree with Caesar Nero who arrested him, but he prayed for Nero. We should do no less.
We must also pray for our military. Christians during every war in American history have prayed the same things: protection for our troops and for a swift peace. And we pray for law enforcement, too, as they maintain civil order.
(2) Vote. Sadly, a “heavy turnout” in America is usually defined as half the eligible voters. We used to point to the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon election as an example of the importance of every vote since one vote per precinct would’ve changed the outcome of that election. Now we have a timelier example. A few hundred votes in Florida in 2000 swung the presidential election.
(3) Volunteer. Political parties welcome volunteers to make donations and to do telephone polling, literature distribution and other tasks. We must be careful, however, not to let these activities overflow into our churches, nor should any church endorse candidates. We can and should speak to issues of moral consequence as our Alabama churches have on gambling and in the quest to remove racist language from our state constitution.
Patriotism is more than a feeling. The people of God have a solemn civic obligation to fulfill.
God bless America.