Imagine a conversation between two Jewish friends a few days after Pentecost. Joseph is a new follower of Christ and is eagerly joining the disciples. John is a Jewish Zealot who hates the fact that the enemy is still in authority over his homeland. While John is walking through town he comes across Joseph who has just finished paying his taxes.
John: Paying your taxes, Joseph? Funny, you don’t look as disappointed as usual. Last I knew, you were like me– avoiding those like the plague! How many hundred denarii did you have to pay last time you missed them? It must have been at least double your normal due– why the change? Gotten soft in your old age?
Joseph: I did pay a lot, you know, but no, I’m not really soft. You might say I’m still a Zealot, I–
John: Good! Because we want to start another rebellion! And we could really u–
Joseph: No, John, not THAT kind of Zealot. I don’t agree with the revolution anymore. The Kingdom I’m looking for isn’t of this world- it’s a heavenly one that will be set up when Jesus who is the Messiah returns to establish his throne! Until then, Rome is just another government– set up by God to be a terror to bad conduct.
John: (Showing the hilt of his sword) Bad conduct? What are you saying? Are you turning your back on your country? You’re no better than those tax collectors!
Joseph: What is that supposed to mean?
John: You know what I mean! Joseph, you know exactly where those taxes go. Don’t you remember the last rebellion and how many of our friends were killed and crucified for that? What about your Jesus? Don’t you know he was crucified? And where do you think the money for those crucifixions comes from? Oh, sure, the wood doesn’t cost much, they can reuse that. But the soldiers! Their salary comes right out of the extortion of the sinners and tax collectors! You sure have gotten soft, Joseph, you have forgotten the very thing you despise! Are you for crucifixion and the Roman rule of our land?
Joseph: John. I love our people and our land. Like you, I wish it would be returned to us yesterday! But Jesus has actually done something to change my attitude about the Romans. I can’t explain it fully, because I don’t fully understand it, but Christ has revealed to me– and thousands of others– that our sin is just as bad as that of the sinners, tax collectors, and Romans. So why should I fight them? I want them to find the same grace that I have!
John: What, and have THEM accepted into this Kingdom of yours?
Joseph: This Kingdom of God! Jesus wants to make many people from all nations a part of His Kingdom. I know it’s terrible where that money is spent and I hate that so many of our countrymen die in this war each year. But Jesus has called me to live with my mind set on heavenly things. The unrepentant Romans and tax collectors will answer for themselves when Christ returns to us just as I will answer for my conduct when He comes. So as long as I am faithful to Him, it doesn’t matter what they are doing. Of course I’ll pray for them and our country to live at peace, but I know now that Jesus will bring the true peace that the prophets spoke of– our zeal against Rome can’t do that!
If you can look past the awkwardness of this imagined conversation, you may begin to get my point. Jesus commanded that we as believers “render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” Likewise, Paul tells us that governments are in place for our good and that we owe them their due. However, the greatest difference between their context and ours is that we actually have a say in what happens in our government. So it is not only our responsibility to pray for those in authority and seek their good, but also to get involved and vote well.
So when they make good laws, it is our joy to follow them. When they make bad laws, it is still our joy to follow them– as our joy is not in our “perfect” nation, but in our Perfect Savior.
But don’t you know what they pay for?
The obvious application here is the new health care law (read some good information on it, here). There are many organizations out there fighting tooth and nail against it for a variety of reasons, but one big reason is its very universal support of abortion and planned parenthood. I despise killing babies. But this is the law of the land and if it goes into effect, it is our duty to obey the law and tell people why we’re obeying it. If the opportunity arises to have this changed, great! But if not, then we live content not in our politics, which change every year, but in our great savior who doesn’t change and will return as the judge of the earth.
So whether you purchase insurance, elect to pay the tax, or seek out a non-insurance, bill-sharing plan (like Medi-Share or Samaritan Ministries, both of which will be legal exceptions to the law), it is our duty and delight to pray for the government and be sure to follow the law. Christ died so that we could do just that.