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Jesus and Government

by Bryant Evans on August 3, 2020

Christians live in two worlds, secular and spiritual. Christians live in the kingdom of God, governed by Jesus. We also live in an earthly, secular kingdom governed by whoever is in power at the moment. Tension always exists between the two kingdoms. The desires and expectations that the two kingdoms hold clash. We must carefully navigate between our two worlds.

Jesus showed us how to live perfectly in both worlds at the same time. By following his leadership, we can be faithful to the God of Heaven and to the laws of men.

His Words

Jesus was born into God’s kingdom: Israel. They were chosen by God to be his people. Still, Jesus spoke of another kingdom that was still to come (Matthew 4:17; 5:19, 20; 6:10, 33; Luke 11:2; 13:29; 19:11; John 3:3,5; 18:36).

Jesus also acknowledged the earthly kingdom of Rome. Jesus said, render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21), thus acknowledging both the legitimacy of the Roman government and the requirement for Christians to obey it. His apostle Paul would voice the same command in Romans” “let every person be subject to the governing authorities” (Romans 13:1ff). To Titus, Paul said, “Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work (Titus 3:1).

His Actions

Jesus applied his words to his actions. The kingdom of Judea, the remnant of Israel, was corrupt, vile and ungodly. Her king lived in open sin. Still, Jesus obeyed the Israelite rulers. When the Israelite religious leader, Annas, questioned Jesus, he submitted and answered him (John 18:19-24).

In his arrest, Jesus declared that he could call “twelve legions of angels” to deliver him. But he did not. (Matthew 26:53). Even as he hung on the cross, Jesus railed not against the Jews or the Romans.

His apostle Paul voiced his submission to Rome as he faced a death penalty. He responded to the governor that he would not refuse to die if he had done some wrong (Acts 25:11). We believe Paul would later die by execution.

His Non-Actions

There was plenty wrong with governments of the first century. Rome, like the Greeks before, was thoroughly pagan. Recall the picture of Athens, where Paul called the city “full of idols” (Acts 17:16). Rome worshipped anything. They even had an altar to the unknown God (Acts 17:23). Their worship was so twisted as to encourage intercourse between worshipper and priest. Some idol temples had male and female prostitutes who served their false gods. Soon, Rome would even demand worship of the Emperors. Meanwhile, a puppet family ruled the Jews. The Herodian Dynasty included every imaginable sin. Herod the Great was a known mass murderer (Matthew 2:1-18).

But that Jesus never embroiled himself in the politics of the day. The politics of Herod, Annas, and Caeser were not the focus of his wrath. He rebuked people for their sins, not their politics. His emphasis was to follow Him as the Savior.

Jesus rebuked people for their sins, not their politics. His emphasis was to follow Him as their only possible Savior. Click To Tweet

Jesus led no boycotts. Jesus did not complain of high taxes. Jesus led no revolt against the troops of the Empire. He did not demand a letter campaign against Herod’s crazed behavior. Even when Rome was systematically executing Christians, there was no revolt. The business of the kingdom of God consumed Jesus. The zeal of God’s house consumed Jesus (Psalm 69:9; Luke 2:17).

We have opportunities to do good by being salt in the world. We can affect the direction of government through elections. But we must never speak more of the kingdom of men than of the kingdom of God. Like Jesus, be consumed with the Lord’s work.

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