As of 1996, 1.6% of the registered voters in the United States were still using something called the Australian ballot, an official uniform printed ballot first used in Australia in 1856. In our tiny rural county, we have used an Australian ballot for the past thirty years, voting in a three-sided cubical set on four long wobbly aluminum legs, marking the long piece of paper with a black pen. Yet I think the mistrust is still there for people no matter how simple or how complex the voting method.
Politics, probably because of the mistrust it engenders, has become an excuse for bad behavior, even in Christians. Because we disagree with a politician’s morals, because we can cite scripture to prove that they are sinful, we think we have the right to revile, vilify, disrespect, and show contempt for the public figure who practices them. God says those very actions are sin themselves.
Camp awhile in Romans 13:1-7. We often use that passage to justify capital punishment. The ruler “bears not the sword in vain” v 4, but the same passage will condemn us if we are not careful.
Romans 13 tells us to “be subject to the governing authorities” v 1. It tells us to pay our taxes, vv 6,7. And yes, it tells us that the civil government is “the avenger of God” on the criminal element of society, v 4. It also tells us that we are to respect and honor that government, v 7. In fact, it says that to do otherwise is to resist God and to invite his wrath, vv 2,5. Remember, Paul was writing this to people under the rule of the Caesars, men who actively persecuted them. If it applied then, it certainly applies in a democracy.
We are blessed to live in a society that allows us to vote our convictions. But the freedom of speech guaranteed by our constitution does not undo the principles God gave for how to speak about that government, any more than the laws it might pass undo the inherent immorality of abortion. God still expects us to honor and respect our rulers, even if they won’t put us in jail for doing otherwise.
Why? Because God is the one who put them in power. “Whoever resists the authorities, resists what God has appointed, and whoever resists will incur judgment” v2. God had a reason for putting that particular man in charge at that particular time. We may not understand that reason, but it is God’s reason, and He expects our submission.
Jesus said to Pilate, the man who turned him over to a murderous mob, “You would not have power over me except it were given you from above,” John 19:11. God had a plan for Pilate, and in hindsight we can see that he fulfilled his purpose. God has plans for every ruler of every physical nation on earth. Christians accept God’s plan whether it makes sense to them or not.
Habakkuk had a similar problem. God told him the Babylonians would come to destroy Israel for their wickedness. “How can you do that?” Habakkuk asked. “Yes, your people have sinned, but how can you allow a nation even more wicked to destroy them?” God’s answer seems almost like a non sequitur. “The righteous shall live by his faith” 2:4. Trust me, God was saying, I know what I am doing.
Even today, as our country looks like it is falling farther and farther away from God, we have the same answer from God. “Trust me. Live a righteous life and let your faith in me and my decisions get you through this.” The way we treat the rulers God has placed over us shows exactly how much faith we have in God. It is that simple.
If we lived under the Law of Moses, many churches would find their rolls decimated--many of their members would have been stoned for “reviling” their rulers, Ex 22:28; 1 Kgs 21:13. I hear it all the time. We cannot say it was different then because the rulers were righteous. You can count on your ten fingers the righteous men who ruled God’s people and have digits leftover. That law applies because of the chain of command. They only rule at God’s purpose and pleasure. To revile them is to revile God, just as Paul reminded those Christians who would someday be persecuted to death by the same rulers.
It is an election year and we are blessed to live in a country where we have the right to vote. Be sure you do that very thing, voting your morality and your righteous beliefs. Then trust God and don’t speak against Him when the results are announced. He knows what He is doing.
For God is the King of all the earth: Sing praises with understanding. God reigns over the nations: God sits upon his holy throne. Psa 47:7-8