Each year, the Town of Prescott Valley lays out a Healing Field in the lawn of the Civic Center. 3,000 flags are placed in memory of the victims of the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon which took place on September 11, 2001. That was “the day the world stopped turning;” the day that those of us who were living at the time will forever remember.
I’m grateful that cities all across the nation have these memorials because we can too easily forget not only the innocent victims of attacks such as 9/11, but the brave men and women who gave their lives trying to save those victims. We too easily forget the sacrifices first responders make every day. Many Americans, carried away by a media which has largely characterized police officers as brutal racists, have begun to distrust and disrespect those who have taken the oath to protect and to serve their fellow citizens.
Back to the Bible: Christians and Civil Authority
There is no doubt that our government has serious gaps, inconsistencies, agendas, and corruption. But before Christians jump on the bandwagon of fear and finger pointing, we must not only look at our world objectively, we must come back to the Bible’s instruction about what government is, what it does, and what our responsibilities are in light of this instruction.
The Bible is far from silent in regard to this issue, clearly commanding all men to “be in subjection to the governing authorities” (Rom. 13:1; Tit. 3:1; 1 Pet. 2:13). This command has no conditional statements attached to it, for we are told further that it is God Himself who establishes these governing authorities (Rom. 13:1; cf. Dan. 4:17). And just like any command, we are not to merely obey externally, we are to have the proper attitude of honor toward the governing authorities (1 Pet. 2:17). That’s right. Christians, of all people, ought to be known as those who honor and obey those in authority.
In addition to these commands, we are told to pray for the salvation of all in authority (1 Tim. 2:1-4). When we do this, we are strengthened to lead the quiet and peaceful lives of godliness to which we have been called, without being carried away by the agendas of either the left or the right.
“There is no doubt that our government has serious gaps, inconsistencies, agendas, and corruption. But before Christians jump on the bandwagon of fear and finger pointing, we must not only look at our world objectively, we must come back to the Bible’s instruction.”
Government and God’s Common Grace
As noted, these biblical commands are given to us because government was given to humanity as part of God’s common grace. When we talk of God’s grace, we typically think in terms of the sending of His Son to die for the sins of men, or of the special empowerment which He provides His children, but God’s grace extends even to the world that is lost in sin. As Jesus reminded us, God “makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust” (Matt. 5:45).
As an instrument of God’s common grace, government helps to restrain evil in the world so that it does not become as bad as it could be, and so that people have some level of order, justice, and protection upon which they can rely. While it is foolish to expect that all government officials will be Christians, Romans 13:1-7 nonetheless calls them “God’s servants.” As the God whose “sovereignty rules over all” (Ps. 103:19 NASB), He has chosen to maintain order in society through the means of government. We may cast our ballot on election day, but He is the One who ultimately appoints rulers over us.
What we must recognize is that government is God’s servant “for our good” because government is “the avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer” (Rom. 13:4b). In fact, God has delegated the authority to government to use the sword – it has the right to take the life of the one who violates the law. On the other hand, government gives approval to those who honor and obey the law (Rom. 13:3b; 1 Pet. 2:14).
Police: God’s Servants for Our Good
While we see politicians on TV and hear them on the radio, the average person is typically at a distance from the lawmakers. But what we do see nearly every day are the law enforcers.
We must remember that these men and women are not a threat to us if we are committed to obeying the law (1 Pet. 3:13). For those of us who are committed to doing good, police officers are “for our good,” and we should have the highest level of honor, appreciation, and thanksgiving to God for them – and we should pray for their salvation and safety regularly – for they are God’s instrument of restraining evil.
“Police officers are “for our good,” and we should have the highest level of honor, appreciation, and thanksgiving to God for them.”
Because of the curse of sin, there are certainly times when the lawmakers will pass laws that are contrary to God’s law or the law enforcers will do things that are immoral or unjust. It is at these times that we are to follow Peter’s example and “obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). We must take a stand and be willing to suffer the consequences for doing what is right. We must demand that justice is served for everyone—even those in authority who think they are above the law.
Nevertheless, we must do so with the same attitude Peter had when he said those words. Remember that this is the same Peter who commanded that we “honor the emperor” (1 Pet. 2:17), who at the time of Peter’s writing was Nero, the infamous persecutor of Christians.
When we align our thinking under the clear teaching and commands of Scripture concerning governing authorities, we will have the right perspective of government, and especially police officers. We will be more joyful, and more at peace as we think of the fact that every day our streets are patrolled by those who are committed “to protect and to serve” by God’s sovereign appointment.