Submitting to Sinners

What are we to do when governments and authorities allow abortion to run rampant? What are we to do when governments and authorities sow seeds of systemic racism? What are we to do when governments and authorities destroy life at any level? What are we to do when governments and authorities commit genocide? What are we to do when governments and authorities attack the church, persecuting and executing?

We are to submit.

Now if you’re like me, you probably think that doesn’t sound right at all. In fact, it makes you bristle and bow up. Submission is a term that shows weakness, that makes us think of being pinned to the mat in a wrestling match. Yet, despite our desire to be our own governing authorities, we are called in Scripture to submit to those God has established over us.

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. – Romans 13:1-2

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority – 1 Peter 2:13a

These verses still rub me the wrong way. If you’re like me, it’s okay to acknowledge that. We don’t like being led, governed, being told what to do. We have grown up in a culture that tells us we are governing ourselves. That doesn’t line up with Romans and 1 Peter. We are called to submit to authority over us, because authorities over us have been put in place by God. We are called to submit to authority over us, because it gives God glory, it is for ‘the Lord’s sake’.

Let’s be clear however about what submission is and isn’t.

SUBMISSION ISN’T SILENCE.

This is probably one of the biggest misconceptions about what it means to submit. Submission doesn’t mean keeping quiet about sin and injustice. There isn’t a country in the world (that I know of) that fully lines up all of their laws and legislations with the commands and character of God. That kind of place doesn’t exist in a Genesis 3 world. So what that means for us as Christians is that the countries we reside in have sinners at the helm and these leaders won’t always lead their country into conformity with the cause and commands of Christ.

In those moments, we are given the right and responsibility to speak up.

Now, there is a way to speak up however. Facebook fights and Twitter clap-backs aren’t the way. Instead, raise awareness. Go to the source. Model it in your own local community. Be humble. Be kind. We have a world full of slacktivists unfortunately, those of us who write about what we should change in our country without striving to do just that at a local level. Man, I’m bad at that.

Submission is not silence. It is however words spoken in kindness and humility, actions taken in a local community, not violent riots.

SUBMISSION SOMETIMES INCLUDES SUFFERING.

Oh how I wish at times that this wasn’t true, but alas it is. When we submit to the government that we are under, that can sometimes lead to suffering.

Earlier today I watched a video, it was a clip of a sermon from a pastor in China named Wang Yi. This pastor was the epitome of what I am writing about in this blog. He was telling his congregation, with much passion, that they were called to speak up and tell the president and leaders of their country that they were sinners in need of the grace of God. He was saying that they could best exemplify and extend the grace of God to these sinful men by suffering. Over and over he attested that if they were to be persecuted and responded with grace, their sinful leadership would encounter the grace of God and turn to the Lord. He was willing to lead his people into suffering via submitting to this government that he was under!

He is now in prison for his belief in Jesus.

He is now walking out what he preached.

He is now extending the grace of God to those who hold him captive.

He was not silent in the midst of a sinful government, but he knew that he was under this government for a reason. That reason appears to be so that through persecution he could extend the grace of God!

SUBMISSION IS WITNESS.

This is the most important aspect of submitting to earthly rulers. When we do so, we are proclaiming the fact that God is ultimately governing those who govern us. Less and less people willingly submit to authority these days, and when we do this it points to the ultimately rule and reign of Jesus. Consider the following verses.

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been give to me. – Matthew 28:18 

The risen Jesus is proclaiming to His disciples that He holds all authority over all things, both in heaven and on earth.

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; – Psalm 24:1 

David is proclaiming the truth that all that is in the world is the Lord’s. Everything comes under His authority!

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. – Acts 1:8

Just after a short dialogue about the kingdom of God, we see Jesus telling His followers that they would bear witness to the gospel. Since this was in the midst of a dialogue on the Kingdom, you could make the argument that they are to be witnesses to the King and His Kingdom as well.

In summary, when we submit to earthly authorities, at whatever level, we are bearing witness to the One who controls all things.

So Trump and company may not have my support in all that they do, but they have my respect. They have my submission. Because I know who is on the throne.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

The American Flag or The Cross

I remember the sermon. I was a senior in college home for the weekend and we had a guest speaker at our church. I enjoyed his message, but there was an undercurrent of a belief system that was concerning to me. Although not explicitly said, there was an implicit sense of the end of the world being equivalent to the rapid moral decline of the United States. This was a sentiment that I have heard echoed in other messages, blog posts, social media rants, etc. If the United States should fall as a nation, the end of the world would be upon us.

Honestly this is very concerning to me. Here’s a few quick reasons why.

  1. This belief is wholly inconsistent with history. The USA is not the first world power that has ever existed. Egypt, Rome, Babylon, Assyria. There is historical and Biblical proof of these nations’ rapid declines, and guess what, we’re still here.
  2. This belief is way too narrow. It is statistically true that in the Western world the church is dead or dying. Europe is incredibly dark spiritually and we’re right behind them. That being said, the global church is exploding. People are coming to Christ in droves in Africa and Asia. We may be on the outskirts here in the USA, but the global church is thriving in the midst of suffering.
  3. This belief is the result of putting our hope in the wrong thing. This is what this post is about. If you take a long look at the Old Testament, you will see that many of the prophetic oracles against the nations (including also the people of Israel) promised destruction because people were believing in their own government, specifically military, for hope and security. Take for instance Isaiah 31:1 – Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, who rely on horses, who trust in the multitude of their chariots and in the great strength of their horsemen, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel, or seek help from the Lord. (see also 2 Chronicles 16:7)

I grew up believing that this was the best country on earth. We were the epicenter of morality, spirituality, and Christian missions. We sent people out to the nations who needed the gospel. We were a country that was all about Christian values. We were God’s country. The rose-colored glasses started to come off at OBU, and then were completely ripped off my eyes in Phoenix.

Phoenix was the darkest of places I’ve been to. A staggering 90%+ don’t having saving faith in Jesus Christ. A major metropolitan area right here in our country, an epicenter of sorts in its own right, and it is dark. This country is not my home. This country is not my hope.

I’ll be honest, my time in Phoenix frightened me. I’ve written about this experience in other blogs, how I came to quickly realize that the United States wasn’t my home. God walked me through fear and anxiety and brought me to the point through studying Scripture that I was able to realize that the United States of America is not a Christian country.

Honestly, there is really no such thing. There can be leaders and policies that support Christian morals and values, but there is no such thing as a Christian country.

There is however such thing as a Christian nation. However it is not a nation that is limited by geography, ethnicity, financial class, or culture. It is a nation of people who have put their trust, hope, and security not in mere men or governments, but instead in Jesus Christ.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. – 1 Peter 2:9-10

The decline of our country can be discombobulating. It can be devastating. It can be discouraging. However, if you remain in that space, that is likely a sign that your hope is in the wrong thing. Repent and believe in the good news of the gospel, that our Risen King sits enthroned in heaven and controls the world and the powers that ‘rule’ it.

It is easy to look at what’s happening and blame my generation for the moral chaos that seems to be swirling all around. It is harder to accept that we may have failed our children by teaching them to put their hope in our country, their security in the American Dream, and their peace in our military might. May we be people who teach our children to put their hope in their Risen Savior, their security in His sovereign hand, and their peace in His unfailing love.

We have an American flag in our sanctuary where I work, and I fear that it has become a symbol of where people are putting their hope. The cross is the symbol of that which we should be putting our hope in.

The American flag doesn’t bring me peace, security, or hope.

The cross of Christ and the empty tomb bring me peace, security, or hope.

MY HOPE IS NOT IN DONALD TRUMP MAKING AMERICA GREAT AGAIN. MY HOPE IS IN KING JESUS MAKING ALL THINGS NEW AGAIN.

I plead with you to live for Christ, to be allegiant to Him first and foremost. Be in the public sphere, vote, rally, protest when necessary, but be allegiant to Christ more than country.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

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