"For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval." (Romans 13:3, ESV)
God's people should indeed feel sympathy for those who are put in difficult situations. But let us recall that even though we may sympathize with a thief who steals to meet his need, it is still a crime which carries consequences. (Prov. 6:30ff) God's people are directed by the principles of scripture to pray for rulers and all those in authority. (1 Tim. 2:1ff) In our preaching, teaching, and encouragement, let us consider how we may actively influence those in worldly authority to uphold justice.
Ancient writers applied scripture, in their writings, to the rulers of all nations that they might hear God's truth and apply it. A certain ancient Jew wrote, "Love justice, you that are the judges of the earth. Think of the Lord in goodness, and seek him in simplicity of heart." (Wis. 1:1) Even those who choose to not participate directly in human governments by voting may influence governments for good. Now, consider five principles concerning governments concerning the necessary and helpfulness of influencing human governments for good without violatng conviction or conscience.
1. Governments enact and legislate decrees, laws to govern behavior. (Rom. 13:2-3) God gave this authority to nations to enforce justice in their domains.
2. Governments have the stewardship to defend the innocent and punish the guilty. This is the purpose of governments bearing the sword. (Rom. 13:4) Those naming Christ as Lord have historically encouraged governments to protect the innocent. Consider that Justin Martyr wrote several defenses against governmental persecution of the innocent.
3. Governments have the stewardship to defend the rights, freedom to choose, of citizens. However, one may not say they have the approval to murder since murder takes away an innocent person's life.
4. Certain choices destroy innocent life. This premise is the one that is often assailed and debated. The beginning of life is a mystery: we know much about when life begins, but not exactly. But there is much we do not understand. As the Ecclesiastes writer said, "As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything." (Eccl. 11:5) Brethren, please judge this tree, this choice, by its fruit.
5. Therefore, Christians should not set their desires on controlling the behavior of others but lovingly upon truth, the protection of the innocent, liberty, justice, and the condition of others in God's sight: True repentance changes not only heart but conduct. Christians are not human governments but fellow servants of the same Master: we have our job, they have theirs. Governments are fellow servants of God; as such these should receive encouragement from God's Word to protect and rule with wisdom.
By Sam Stinson
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