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THE BOOK OF GOD'S PROMISES

Citizenship

By J. Stephen Lang

CBN.com -- The Bible sees no reason a person of faith cannot also be a good citizen. In fact, they are encouraged to be both. But, as Jesus predicted, he and his followers would suffer hardship, some of it at the hands of government officials. The New Testament never shows a Christian showing disrespect or violence toward these people. Still, there is a tension in the Christian life: Our first loyalty is to God, not to the state. God promises us inner peace -- not necessarily peaceful coexistence with a government that may detest and even persecute us.

The captain went with his Temple guards and arrested them, but Peter and the apostles replied, "We must obey God rather than human authority" (Acts 5:26-29).

The Pharisees met together to think of a way to trap Jesus into saying something for which they could accuse him. They decided to send some of their disciples, along with the supporters of Herod, to ask him this question: "Teacher, we know how honest you are. You teach about the way of God regardless of the consequences. You are impartial and don't play favorites. Now tell us what you think about this: Is it right to pay taxes to the Roman government or not?"

But Jesus knew their evil motives. "You hypocrites!" he said. "Who are you trying to fool with your trick questions? Here, show me the Roman coin used for the tax." When they handed him the coin, he asked, "Whose picture and title are stamped on it?"

"Caesar's," they replied. "Well, then," he said, "give to Caesar what belongs to him. But everything that belongs to God must be given to God" (Matthew 22:15-21).

After Jesus' arrest he faced Pilate, the Roman governor. Pilate assumed he had a political agitator on his hands, but Jesus assured him that the revolution he was staging was in human hearts, not in the area of politics:

Then Pilate went back inside and called for Jesus to be brought to him. "Are you the King of the Jews?" he asked him.

Jesus replied, "Is this your own question, or did others tell you about me?"

"Am I a Jew?" Pilate asked. "Your own people and their leading priests brought you here. Why? What have you done?"

Then Jesus answered, "I am not an earthly king. If I were, my followers would have fought when I was arrested by the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world."

Pilate replied, "You are a king then?"

"You say that I am a king, and you are right," Jesus said. "I was born for that purpose. And I came to bring truth to the world. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true" (John 18:33-37).

Obey the government, for God is the one who put it there. All governments have been placed in power by God. So those who refuse to obey the laws of the land are refusing to obey God, and punishment will follow. For the authorities do not frighten people who are doing right, but they frighten those who do wrong. So do what they say, and you will get along well. The authorities are sent by God to help you. But if you are doing something wrong, of course you should be afraid, for you will be punished. The authorities are established by God for that very purpose, to punish those who do wrong. So you must obey the government for two reasons: to keep from being punished and to keep a clear conscience.

Pay your taxes, too, for these same reasons. For government workers need to be paid so they can keep on doing the work God intended them to do. Give to everyone what you owe them: Pay your taxes and import duties, and give respect and honor to all to whom it is due (Romans 13:1-7).

The Book of God's Promises -- Copyright, 1999 by J. Stephen Lang. All rights reserved, used with permission.

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