I think it’s interesting that Romans 13:1-8 touches on living in fear. It runs rampant in our nation as factions fight for moral control of our nation, all sides using fear and smear to gain power and political ground. Some are righteous, others are not. Some fight for righteousness, others do not.
Paul asks, “Do you want to be unafraid of authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same” (Romans 13:3). I don’t know about you, but I want to live unafraid. Unafraid of the consequences of rulers who don’t love and honor God. Unafraid of the legislation they pass. Unafraid of abusive executive orders, socialist policies, higher taxes, escalating debt, national security (or lack thereof), decreasing personal liberty, increasing government encroachment. This scripture gives us practical instruction for what to doto live unafraid: Be subject – submit in the attitude of our hearts (verse one; see “Who Really Rules?”) – and do what is good! Titus 3:1-2 expounds, “Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men.”
Because America is a republic founded on the idea that government should be “of the people, by the people, for the people” (Abraham Lincoln, The Gettysburg Address), it functions according to the voluntary participation of the people who run for office, help those running for office, vote, contact elected officials regarding certain legislation and issues, and otherwise engage in the political process. Even though, as believers, we are not of this world, we are in it, and we have the opportunity to do “what is good” by getting involved in any and all areas of our government as ambassadors for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20) doing all things in the name of the Lord Jesus (Colossians 3:17), all to the glory of God (I Corinthians 10:31).
The phrase “what is good” in the Greek means “of good constitution or nature, useful, salutary, good, pleasant, agreeable, joyful, happy, excellent, distinguished, upright, beneficial” (Strong’s G18, agathos, www.blueletterbible.com). In everything having to do with governing authorities, we are to have a good constitution, a good nature. We are to be useful and pleasant, joyful and happy. With excellence, living a distinguished, upright life. And do that which is beneficial.
I think of beneficial and I think of I Corinthians 6:12, “‘Everything is permissible for me’ – but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible for me’ – but I will not be mastered by anything” (NIV). I Corinthians 10:23 says essentially the same thing, but adds, “‘Everything is permissible’ – but not everything is constructive” (NIV). While the context of these verses specifically deals with eating meat, they can be applied in general to all that is lawful. In all things, we should not only consider what is lawful; we should consider what is beneficial. This truth is relevant for any area of our lives, including politics.
In both scriptures, beneficial is from the Greek word sympherō (Strong’s G4851, www.blueletterbible.com), meaning “to bear or bring together; to bear together or at the same time; to carry with others; to collect or contribute in order to help; to help, be profitable, be expedient.” Its root infers the carrying of a burden, bearing up and upholding, enduring, and bringing forward with one’s conduct (Strong’s G5342, pherō, www.blueletterbible.com). Constructive is from the Greek word oikodomeō (Strong’s G3618, www.blueletterbible.com), which means “to build (up from the foundation); to restore by building, to rebuild, repair; to promote growth in Christian wisdom, affection, grace, virtue, holiness, blessedness.” In other words, Paul is saying, whatever we do, together, our conduct should collectively help bear, uphold, and endure the burden of building, restoring, repairing, or promoting Christian wisdom and living for the profit of others. This would include politics. He continues in 1 Corinthians 10:24, “Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.” Or, as he says in Romans 13:8, “Owe no one anything except to love one another.”
What, then, is beneficial when it comes to politics? How do we love one another, which is, in effect, seeking the good of our neighbor? First John 3:16 tells us: “By this we know love, because He laiddown His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” We are to lay off or set aside our feelings, desires, affections, and aversions – our very heart and soul – for others in whatever way God desires. For some of us, like Troy Bonin (www.troybonin.org), that means running for public office. He is laying down his life, his evenings, his weekends, his free time, his finances. When he is in office, he will lay down his lifestyle and dental practice and family life as he knows it now to serve. I’m not saying this verse is a mandate to believers to run for office. But getting involved in politics is one way God may ask us to love others.
Proverbs 29:2 tells us, “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when a wicked man rules, the people groan.” Likewise, Proverbs 28:12 says, “When the righteous rejoice, there is great glory; but when the wicked arise, men hide themselves.” This nation is governed by those who are elected and the laws they pass. If godly men serve, the people rejoice. Ultimately, God determines who holds office according to His sovereignty. In order to be elected, however, one must first run for office. Godly men must run and godly men must get involved in the process of electing and governing. Godly people must help their campaigns. Godly people must vote. Godly people must voice their beliefs to their elected officials. If not, we will find ourselves groaning in hiding, which is already starting for the very reason that the righteous aren’t ruling and God’s people aren’t doing good.
Jesus said of the men God gave Him out of this world, “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world” (John 17:16-18, emphasis mine). Jesus did not want the Father to remove us from the world, even though we, like Him, are not of it. He sent us into the world, a Greek word whose meaning encompasses the earth itself, the human family, the ungodly multitude, worldly affairs, and government (Strong’s G2889, kosmos, www.blueletterbible.com). While our loyalty is to the kingdom of heaven, we are alien residents in the countries where we reside, and as such, we must do good by loving others in whatever role God places us, including citizen. All of us have a part in politics.
We have been given truth, and we are to preach the gospel in all areas of our lives, including politics. We must be the ones to speak truth. And to get behind those who will. Those, like Troy Bonin, who will hold to biblical truth and principals in the context of serving in government. In the context of expecting others to do the same for the good of the people. Loving neighbors. Being salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matthew 5:13-14). Taking that light to the Hill, whether in Washington, D.C., or at a state or local level. Putting it on a lamp stand and letting it “so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (verse 16).
It is not my or any other person’s place to dictate or judge your choices or establish some form of legalism with regards to Christians and polities. My personal conviction is that it’s better for Christians to be involved than not. As Edmund Burke so famously said, “All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” So, I try to do my part. I vote. I contact my representatives and senators at the state and federal level. I read about events and issues, sign petitions, make donations, forward emails, help educate. I am compelled to do something even as it seems to make no difference at all. Even as I sit baffled by the rapid moral decline everywhere I look no matter what I or others do to fight against it.
My prayer is that together, whatever we do, our humble, gentle, peaceable conduct will collectively help bear, uphold, and endure the burden of building, restoring, repairing, and promoting Christian wisdom and living for the profit of others, doing so with a good constitution and good nature, speaking evil of no one, being obedient, useful, and pleasant, joyful and happy, doing it with excellence, and living a distinguished, upright life.
“Whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men” (Colossians 3:23). Do it wholly His.