Every day we are reminded of the incompetence of government. We hear it on the news and from our co-workers. We remember it when we’re stuck in traffic or waiting for a bureaucrat to answer the phone. Misguided policies and wasteful programs are commonplace. (I speak as a long-suffering New South Welshman) Whether it’s a local, state or federal issue, dodginess is something we simply expect from government.

Our authorities are not only “tricky,” they are increasingly at odds with the Christian stance on issues such as the sanctity of marriage, the value of human life, education, or vices like gambling. As the power of government encroaches further into private life, Christians have good reason to be suspicious of the direction in which that authority is moving.

Don’t Dodge Romans 13:1

This tension between believers and the state is nothing new. The Bible is full of bad governments, with historical examples from Israel’s kings to pagan nations up to the Roman era. Some administrations were financially oppressive (king Solomon), others were spiritually menacing (Assyria, Babylon, Rome), or unstable (short-lived king Zimri), or divided (Israel & Judah).

In the New Testament, Christians were growing restless under the hostile Roman empire. In that context, Romans chapter 13, verse 1 is God’s primary instruction concerning our relationship with and attitude toward civil government:

“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities.”

To be subject is to recognise the superior authority over us, so that we seek to respect and obey that authority. This command applies to “every person.” God requires such submission to civil rulers because God has established their rule. Our government is ultimately God’s delegated government, so our submission to government is a reflection of our submission to God. Submission normally results in obedience.

Even in situations where we may need to “obey God, rather than men”(Acts 5:29; Revelation 11:15), the Bible demonstrates that we can keep a submissive spirit. For example, Daniel served in pagan governments as an administrator, yet he is recorded as refusing on only two occasions to comply with regulations, because personal compliance with those orders would have been direct disobedience to God. On the whole, he remained subordinate to the government of his day.

When the apostles Peter and John were commanded to stop preaching, they did not challenge the office of the Sanhedrin. They submitted themselves to the Sanhedrin’s authority to judge, while resolving to preach Christ.

I think this command to submit is harder than it seems. It’s easier to complain loudly about the flaws in the system, or to fret over the godless direction of godless leaders, while forgetting our faith in the sovereign One who appoints those very same officials and sees the end from the beginning.

We may also be guilty of picking and choosing which laws to obey, not because we’re in a situation where we “ought to obey God” but because we would simply rather (for example) speed when it suits us, or copy music without regarding copyright.

Dodginess Ahead

The current Parliament is hung. A carbon tax is looming. Since the federal election, the Greens have already promoted a bill on euthanasia and propose a national law to permit same-sex marriage. We’re living in interesting times.

Submission does not necessitate silence; you still have the opportunity to speak out. If anything, we are so accustomed to our “nanny state” that we tend to be passive when we could be more aggressive. Instead of muted grumbling, here are three ways for Christians to effectively speak out and make a difference:

1) Pray for the government. We should be praying for our local council, for state MPs, for the Prime Minister, and so on. The instruction from I Timothy 2:1-4 is a good start.

2) Email your representatives directly. Respectfully and clearly explain your concern.

3) Talk about the Gospel. Parliaments and politicians come and go, along with the issues of the 24/7 news cycle. But soon the kingdoms of the world will become “the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever” (Acts 5:29; Revelation 11:15). What will truly save and transform people—the next government, or redemption through Jesus?

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About Ben Kwok

Ben is part of a church plant team establishing the Rouse Hill Church. He holds a Master of Divinity degree. Ben and his wife Diahanna live in Sydney, Australia with their four young children.


  1. Micah T. 29 September, 2010 at 6:01 am

    It never ceases to amaze me that when elections come around, I find so many people (and too often, myself) looking to the new government for the answer to our nation’s problems. Although solid leadership (or a lack thereof) makes a big difference, men can’t work miracles…God works miracles. Hence, He is the One I should be looking to. Thanks for the article, it was a blessing and a rebuke.

  2. Robert Apps 29 September, 2010 at 6:35 am

    I thought your blog title was very benevolent Ben.

  3. PJ 29 September, 2010 at 8:35 am

    Thanks for your post – I think you’ve got this issue exactly right.

    As you do in this post, I also would encourage Believers to be politically active in the context of Biblical submission to lawful authorities, but I worry when churches become politically active – I think that tends to distract from the primacy of the Gospel.

  4. Steve 29 September, 2010 at 9:23 am

    As good premillennialists, we should not be overly concerned with the state of our secular governments and we can humbly submit, pray, even write letters if necessary, but primarily continue living Christ honouring lives.

    Given the very dodgy political situation at the moment, those who are post-millennial should be very worried.

  5. Ben Kwok 29 September, 2010 at 4:25 pm

    Yes, Christians should do more in speaking out on issues (as part of being salt and light) but I also think our political efforts should be in proportion to our efforts in evangelism. Regeneration is the best kind of reform… I also found a good quote from Martin Luther on bad government, of which he had some experience!


  6. Steve Warren 29 September, 2010 at 10:14 pm

    Thanks for the post Ben, a big AMEN. Romans 13:1-7 is a great comfort because it means that I don’t have to fret and worry about what the the government is going to do next. I know I need to get more involved in the political process but never seem to find the time to write to my local, state or federal member but of late I have taken the time to participate in E petitions on a number of issues. Sadly though, I find it all too easy too join in the complaining and whining about those in authority that charachterise our national ethos and this post has challenged me to try and get back on track and offer a biblical comment the next time those around me are having a whinge.

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