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How can Christians honor our earthly rulers if they are evil?

John from Louisiana asked: “How can Christians honor our earthly rulers if they are evil?”

John, 

I’ll start with the biblical command that Christians are to submit to just law. By just law, I mean a law that does not violate the Bible. For example, when building our current offices, there were building codes that governed what we could and could not do. Obeying those codes cost our ministry extra money. But we were obligated to comply, because complying did not force us to disobey God’s Word.

However, if a law forces me to violate God’s law, then I cannot comply. For example, if the government told me to abort my child, then I would violate that law because it's not just. Or think about the apostles who were commanded to stop preaching in the name of Jesus. The Bible requires believers to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. So they had to obey God rather than man.

It's important to understand that Paul lived under one of the most wicked leaders of all time, a man named Nero. He was evil, vile, immoral, and he instigated great persecution on Christians. But when you read the New Testament, you never find Paul trying to unseat Nero or rebel against him. In fact, what we see instead is passages like Romans 13:1:

Romans 13:1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God (ESV).

That passage takes on new meaning when you remember that Paul’s governing authority was Nero. 

Here in America, we should enjoy and appreciate the freedom we have. We should exercise the rights we have to participate in selecting our leaders. As Christians, we pray for our leaders, and we submit to the laws that do not cause us to violate Scripture. 

And let me add that when a Christian, anywhere in the world, needs to disobey a leader in order to obey God, that comes with suffering the consequences. Christians have been fined, imprisoned and even killed for their loyalty to Jesus Christ. So choosing to obey God might mean suffering the consequences that come from the earthly ruler you disobey. 

Thanks for your question,

Stephen

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