CHRISTADELPHIAN BIBLE POSTAL COURSE No. 52
THE DISCIPLE AND THE STATE
Reading : Romans 13
The Apostle Peter writing to all of the churches in Asia said that disciples must always fear God and honour the King. You will find these words in his first letter chapter 2 verses 13 to 17. As far as those disciples were concerned, the only King was the Roman Emperor and, towards the end of Peter’s life, that Emperor was Nero, infamous for his cruelty and his persecution of the Christians.
The problem of how to be followers of Jesus and at the same time live in the world of men with its corruption, its intolerance cruelty and immorality must have been a difficult puzzle for those early Christians to solve. The problem is no less today and this lesson will show the Biblical instructions for all baptised followers of Jesus and all those who have been following the Bible correspondence course. It will try to help all who may be troubled by the relationship between a true disciple of Jesus and the Government and its laws in the country they live in.
The matters we will look at now are
1. Military service.
2. Involvement in any uniformed branch of civil or police activity.
3. Serving on a jury or being part of the legal profession.
4. Taking part in protests of any kind.
5. Using the right to vote.
Because this lesson is written for use in many countries, it must account for the wide variety of laws and regulations that govern the citizens of those countries. It must also provide for the possibility that your country may be troubled by war at this time. In some lands, it is obligatory for young people to fight in the army and this will immediately concern all who are disciples of Jesus. To stand before conscripting officers or a court and claim freedom from conscription into the armed forces of your country will take courage and knowledge of the scriptural reasons why you are doing this. Your teacher will be able to provide Christadelphian booklets written on this subject but the simple reasons are stated here.
The first reference is in Luke chapter 22 verses 35 to 38. This may be quoted to you as a reason for fighting but you must look carefully at all of the events on that night when Jesus was captured. Two of the disciples had already been carrying swords: John in his gospel chapter 18 verse 10 tells us one was Peter. The lesson for the disciples and for us is recorded by Matthew in his gospel chapter 26 verse 51 to 53.
“All that take the sword shall perish with the sword”. Jesus wanted to make it clear to his disciples that they were not to use force, not to resist aggression. He demonstrated his own instruction to love your enemies Matthew chapter 5 verse 44 by reaching out to the servant of the High Priest who had been attacked by Peter and healing him Luke chapter 22 verse 50 and 51.
In order that you may be able to convince the authorities that you really do obey the commands of Jesus you need to show your faith in your life so that other people will be able to recognise that you are different.
Jesus explains this in a lovely way in Matthew chapter 5 verse 16. “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and give glory to your father who is in heaven”.
Paul gives this instruction to the Christians in Rome. Look at Romans chapter 13 verses 1 to 7. Here he makes it the responsibility of the disciple to be obedient to the law of his land even to the extent of honestly paying all taxes. In his first letter to Timothy chapter 2 verses 1 and 2 he commands that we pray for Kings and rulers asking that they may allow us to continue to worship God in the way that God wants us to. Over 500 years before this date, God had stated that he rules in the Kingdoms of men and it is he who places rulers in power for his own reasons. Look at the prophecy of Daniel chapter 4 verse 25.
In addition to the armed forces of the land there are other occupations that require men and women to wear uniforms, carry arms and swear special oaths of allegiance to the state. Because of the reasons we have already looked at, and the possible need to explain your conscientious objection to fighting, it would be very unwise to take this kind of employment. Even though it offers better pay and better living conditions for your family.
When Jesus was on trial before Pilate the Roman Governor he explained that his Kingdom would be in another time. It was not to be set up by force of arms and the disciples would not be expected to fight. You will find this reference in John’s gospel chapter 18 verse 36.
Those countries that have a legal system based on that of the UK will very likely use a jury of men and women to sit in a court of law and decide the guilt or innocence of the person who stands before that court. In England and America, it is considered the right and the duty of all citizens to perform this task when called on to do so. If this happens to you, you will need to make up your mind whether it is right or wrong to sit on a jury. Here is some guidance from the Bible that may help you.
Despite Paul’s instructions to be good citizens, the first thing to remember is that our first duty is to God “Fear God honour the King”, look at the first letter of Peter 2 verse 17. When Peter and several other disciples were brought before the Jewish ruling council accused of preaching the gospel illegally Peter’s answer was to say that “We must obey God rather than men” you will find this incident in Acts chapter 5 verses 28 and 29.
Jesus is clear in his instruction to us, look at Matthew’s gospel chapter 7 verse 1 and 2. Judge not. Here Jesus’ meaning is “do not condemn others”. This is clear from his next words and the little parable about the man with the beam in his eye, verses 3 to 5 Jesus expects us to make careful judgements about many things and many events in life.
Jesus himself will be the great judge of all when he returns to the earth. It is not our place to pronounce judgement on other people; all we have to do is be careful of those who will lead us away from Jesus.
Paul in his letter to the Philippians chapter 3 verses 17 to 21 explains that following him is our first objective, our citizenship is with him (in heaven) because that is where he is at this moment. We are not part of the process of human government and because the legal system of any country is the foundation of the state we cannot be part of that process either. This means that we would find problems in entering the legal profession or in taking any part in the process of Justice. Being a member of a jury puts us right at the heart of that process.
From all of the references we have looked at in this lesson, it is clear hat as followers of Jesus we have to separate ourselves from the world and many of the things the people around us consider acceptable. Paul gave some good advice to the Corinthians in his second letter chapter 6 verses 14 to 18. If we are followers of Jesus, it is because God has called to this wonderful opportunity.
Those who sit in Governments do not consider themselves there to work God’s will.
They follow the policies of the party in power. In the western world all men and women above a certain age have the right to vote for the politicians who will be in power whether at local or at national level. The right to vote is in some cases a recently attained privilege and was obtained after much careful effort. What then should the follower of Jesus do when there is an election?
We know from many prophecies that God controls the destiny of the nations and we have looked at one example in the Prophecy of Daniel. We know that if we vote for a politician we have a responsibility for what that man or woman does. We know that most politicians follow the decrees of their party leaders and that mankind’s decisions are rarely if ever influenced by God’s law.
There is no way therefore that we can vote for a politician or be involved in politics at local or national level. There is no way that we can be involved in the various protests against government policy. The law of Christ in the words of Paul to the Hebrews chapter 13 verses 5 and 6 is “Be content with such things as ye have” and “The Lord is my helper”.