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Why should we surrender to an oppressive government?

Ed: HERE ARE five Bible principles to consider:

1. God is directing world affairs towards His ultimate purpose, and all governments are put in place by Him (Daniel 4:17). This means good governments, and also bad governments—which is admittedly not an easy principle to accept. But here’s an example: the Nazi government in Germany in the 1930s was an abhorrent regime which committed many atrocities. But with hindsight we can see that the Nazis had a part in God’s plan, because their persecution of European Jews provided impetus for the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, in fulfilment of Bible prophecy (for example Ezekiel 37). Hitler was a monster, but God allowed him to do what he did. So the first point is that any government is there because God is using it.

2. Followers of Christ must obey the government of the country where they live. This is emphatically explained in Romans 13:1–7. ‘Let every person be subject to the governing authorities’ (v. 1).You might suggest that it’s easy to obey a benign government, but it’s not so easy to obey a bad government. So when he wrote Romans 13 was Paul just thinking about good governments? No—the government in his day was the Roman empire. It was corrupt, cruel and violent. The Romans crucified Jesus. They persecuted the Christians and they often mistreated Paul. But Paul said we must honour and obey the government. (The only time when Christians should disobey the government is when it tells them to do things that are contrary to God’s will. When this happens, God’s will takes priority—Acts 4:19–20.)

3. Followers of Christ should not resist evil (Matthew 5:38–42). This is very difficult teaching, because it seems natural to us to fight back. Jesus said we must not fight back. He set an example of how to live: when he was tortured and crucified he did not resist (1 Peter 2:23).

4. We should leave judgement to God (Romans 12:17–21). God sees everything and knows everything. He will deal with perpetrators of oppression and atrocity when the time is right.

5. The only real solution to the problem of oppressive governments is the return of Christ to set up his kingdom. That will be a government that brings justice and peace to the whole world (Psalm 72). The most effective thing we can do is to pray for Christ to return (Matthew 6:10).

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