I really have no clue, as to where certain Christians think God in the Bible wants to tell us, that we must above all else have a governing body above us, because we are too dumb enough to govern ourselves or let God govern our lives. I have no clue how they get there. Just because Israelites had several types of government and just because those governments had certain rules, doesn’t mean that the government of whatever type is a necessary entity under God’s creation, much less a required one. And strangely enough most pro-government Christians seem to look mostly at old testament and to support that also to Romans 13 and to places when Jesus says: “Render unto Cesar what is Cesar’s and to God what is God’s.” I think that this kind of thinking is flawed for several reasons:
1. We are sinful It is true, that we the people are sinful creatures and we sometimes prefer to use coercion to get what we want. Yet if you look at this statement closely enough with an understanding of what government is, you will see, that this very same reason for which some people demand to have government, is the one which quite obviously makes the government one of the greatest evils of all (no matter how altruistic the governing body might be). Let me explain. By definition Government is the body which holds the (legal, yet illegitimate) monopoly over the use of violence. No matter how many rules you get, the basic function of the government is to use force (or coercion) to enforce its laws or to do what it wants. Normally people would say, that this is OK as long as it is democratic, for we all know that one ruler tends to go absolute and at some point abuses this power. Now here it gets tricky. Just because a majority votes to use force against the rest doesn’t mean it is morally right to do so, legitimate or simply human. If one person has no natural right to use force upon another person, how can he delegate the right he does not have to many? He can’t, yet in the name of many people have often created tyrannies of majority instead of an absolute (king). And how exactly does “sinful” get into picture, you might ask? Well, all people are sinful and with a democracy the odds of sinning collectively and forcing others to sin as well just goes up and tends to not go down at all (if ever). And if this is true for many, it’s also true for one (person). So the argument that sinful people require a governing body with the legal (yet illegitimate) monopoly over the use of force, is flawed, because all are sinful and hence the government as well.
2. We are greedy As Paul tells Timothy: “ For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. – 1Tim 6:10” he doesn’t say money is evil, but that the love of possessions is the root of all evil, or if you put it in different words: “For the love of money (and all it buys) placed before the love of God (in reality) is the root of all kinds of evil.” So money itself is generally neutral (unless when fiat money is in circulation). Why Do I talk about greed? Because it is accompanied with sin and when those two combined have even a slight possibility to make a monopoly of their wickedness, they will do so: the government is the perfect entity in which this comes into play. We as human beings are all created equal in the sight of God and thus we posses certain self-evident unalienable rights: life, liberty, individuality. As Bastiat says it:
“Life, faculties, production — in other words, individuality, liberty, property — this is man. And in spite of the cunning of artful political leaders, these three gifts from God precede all human legislation, and are superior to it. Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place. – Frederic Bastiat, The Law“
So when a man, with a cunning political ability to be a source of collective law, writes a law for many people to obey, he will do so by the use of force and with financial support of parasites, who sponsor him in order to gain monopolies in their own area. Monopolies can only beget monopolies, never freedom. So if you want to root out most people who prefer force and who are greedy, you can do so by not having a government in the existence.
3. We are equal as human beings We the people are not naturally divided into two groups: masters and slaves. When we support or advocate for government, we are essentially saying that some are masters and that the rest are slaves. We are not. We are equal in God’s sight. If the american declaration of independence and Bastiat do not convince you, try Jesus! It is silly really, that people who consider themselves Christian act very similarly to Pharisees and Israelites. Israelites, and above else Pharisees, didn’t want to have God rule and govern their lives, they wanted to speak in the name of God and write mere human legislation, a law that would in their eyes make them righteous to all men and God, yet following the law does not save us. And if anything is our master in our worldly lives then it is Satan or evil in the form of greed and other sin. Yet Paul says:
“For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace. – Rom 6: 14 “
If this is not enough, let me suggest that Jesus himself is an example of how all people should relate to each other. You see, Israelites didn’t really want a man who would be equal to them, though divine. They wanted to have a strong powerful ruler of armies and with the clear monopoly over the use of violence. They wanted a mighty king who would avenge their loyalty. But who was Jesus?
“Christ did not sin or ever tell a lie.” – 1 Peter 2:22
“He wasn’t dishonest or violent…” Isaiah 53:9 “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name…” – Phil 2:6-9
If we are being honest with ourselves, we see, that Jesus is at the same time God and Man (fully God and fully Man), but He chose to empty himself of divineness, in the same way as a son of a king would choose not to use the authority of His father’s name to get what he wants. Furthermore Jesus has never shown violence. True, he was angry and furious when people turned the temple into a trading post, but he did not sin acting as he did. Moreover God continuously shows one part of his character throughout the Bible to be sometimes quite angry at his people – rightfully so, since Israelites were rarely, if ever, really obedient to God. Moreover I honestly think that the Law that God gave was not to be kept, but was to show, that it cannot be kept and it was meant to transform us to seek relationship with God and let Him change us and cloak us with His divine love and grace (as I also wrote about in Why Liberty, why Christ). If we say that a ruler must exist, then it would be very true to say that the only possible person who could essentially that be, it would be God, or in other words Jesus. Jesus did say, that he is king, but that His kingdom is not of this place. So if the only person, who could legitimately and with all his (divine) right (as a creator) turns it down and acts humbly as equal to all Man, then this tells me a whole lot of what is it with government authority. It tells me, that while God of old testament wants us to submit to His governance that is as a consequence of our change by choosing to follow and obey Him and not some human being who takes the illegitimate right to reign over all. Moreover It tells me, that Jesus probably knew, that by enforcing Himself unto those men, who wish not to choose to live like He did, would violate their God given right to individual choice, he probably knew that his reign would be wholesomely illegitimate. What really struck me the other day, was, how Jesus was like when handed over to Roman authorities and how human like, yet with a character that is humble yet God submitting and not violent.
I wonder, which higher power is Jesus referring to when in John 19:11 he says that Pilate would have no power if it were not given from above? Is it God, who reigns over the powers that be above us (governments, kings, …) ? It could be, but I don’t think this is all the truth here. The verse goes: “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.” – John 19:11. Jesus doesn’t just stop with telling Pilate, that there are greater powers above him (at least Cesar). He continues with the guilt and sin of those who were handing Jesus over without right to do so. He can be saying all of that because Jesus is at the same instant both God and man. By his free will he lets the scriptures be acted out – he sacrifices Himself obeying the person of The Father, and at the same time exercises the authority He has as a king of all creation. I do not think that, as some believe, this instance means that we should ever submit to government. Quite contrary. I think we should ever only submit to God. If he tells us to submit, for the sake of the Gospel, to the authorities (as did many people throughout the past in violent regimes, so that Jesus would be glorified by executors seeing the love of God on people they tortured) then we ought to listen to them. But never does this mean that this is because of the government. Jesus is clearly showing submission to God and not man – so that God might use Him for His glory everlasting.
But how is this showing that we are equal in the sight of God, you might ask? Christ died for all of His creation submitting only to God the Father whilst being fully God and fully man, showing not only that He is who he said he was, but also, that He is the holder of truth for all men, that all men can choose to either follow where truth leads them (to God and obedience to Him), therefore if the people are, whom He died for and if He chooses to abide by God the Father, then all the people are equal in the sight of God. God is certainly capable of making distinctions, but he doesn’t. All have fallen, all live, all have individuality and all have freedom, therefore God can either ditch that aside and violate His own principles, thus instantly turning free beings into His subjects and making us unfree or slaves, or he can be God (be holy and perfect, just and loving – divinely omnipotent) and respect who we are as people and save us if we want to. And he does on the Cross. All throughout New Testament, and especially in the Gospel according to John, Jesus demonstrates, that He is God and man and that His sole obedience is to God the Father, or the trinity of you will. He is the most elaborate way of how God shows us what Man is supposed to be.
CONCLUSION There might be more things that are to be said on this topic, but let them be for the time being. In the sight of God we are created equal and thus no man and no woman might legitimately gain power to rule over another man, except God, but He chooses to rule only those who freely submit unto Him. Therefore there should be no person who ought to make whatever kind of governance on Earth, wherein some gain more power or rights than others. Moreover God whilst being Jesus was the most what He wishes to see among men, as anyone would ever be able to be – a free being.
What then is a sensible Christian supposed to do if not listen to Government? He ought to listen to God, where-ever that might lead Him. I would suggest to something like a community of believers in Acts 2:42-45, where there is a community of people contributing to each other on voluntary basis, not because of the threat of coercion, or to a community of Jesus and disciples, wherein we see even an act of rebellious (to the culture surrounding them) non-conformist behavior that would suggest that following Christ (God) is not something that conforms to the culture around us, but is something that directly parts us from it. I suggest that a person seeing a Christian should be able to see a person who tends to question the motives of everyone in leaderships and at the same time loves everyone, whilst not necessarily approving of their actions, rather condoning the actions, but loving the sinner. They should be able to see a person who genuinely is not of the same views as the majority is, and lives a radical life of obedience to God, thus spreading the love of Christ wherever they are. They should be able to see a person who loves the sheep, rebukes the swine and kills the wolves or rebels against them.
Hence a rebellion of free people of God is a very useful (and I would say very important) tool of subversion of wickedness and at the same time obedience to God. As long, of course, it is not in the intention of overthrowing the ruling powers, but of defending the people and themselves, excepting those who, while condoning it, submit unto God for loving the wicked within the Government. I think the rebellion should never be used to attack but to defend if necessary. Furthermore if we were all free men, there would be no need to rebel (I am just saying that to those, who believe we are free, when we are truly not).
We are to live as free men and seek freedom as long as it is in Christ. We must always seek Him first and the actions must follow Jesus’ example.