Christians must realize that our political leaders are not our ultimate leaders.
Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. 2 And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. 3 They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands. 4 Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” 5 So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!” 6 When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.” 7 The Jews[a] answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.” 8 When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid. 9 He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. 10 So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” 11 Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin”( John 19:1-10).
The ante had been upped! Not only was he accused of being a king (something for which he had been questioned thoroughly), but now they have accused him of being one who “made himself the Son of God” (v. 8). This chilled Pilate even more! Who is he dealing with now? This is not simply an earthly king, but the Son of God? This still clashed with the government, for Caesar himself claimed to be a son of the gods. Pilate could not sweep this under the rug.
When Pilate tried to strong-arm Jesus, that did not work either. Jesus felt no compulsion to answer him. He remained cool under pressure—and for good reason. Pilate said, “Look, I can release you or crucify you—it’s in my power!”
Every person on the planet is on trial, but none more so that our political leaders. Turn with me to Romans 13.
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.
All of us are to be subject to whatever authorities are in place (mayor, governor, president). Here, the apostle Paul echoes what Jesus spoke to Pilate—no authority is there but from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. So God put every political leader in place for a reason and a purpose. Regardless of who they are, they provide some sense of order and protection for the citizens. And for this reason, we submit according to the laws set in place.
Jesus exemplified this! Pilate represented a reprehensible government that was about to do a reprehensible thing—crucify the innocent Son of God. Yet, Jesus did not call down one angel, did not send his followers to fight. He stayed silent, until Pilate thought he was in control of the situation. Jesus set him straight.
God calls us now to abide by the laws of the land because these leaders are, in essence, “servants of God.” So we obey for the sake of conscience (v. 5). Taxes, respect, revenue, honor—all are owed by us as believers.
Our Founding Fathers who, though they may not have been evangelical Christians who surrendered to Christ! In fact, many of them didn’t believe in the deity of Christ much less his work on the cross. But they did have, as the Declaration of Independence, a notion of a Creator or that of ‘divine providence.’ This was enough to provide some restraint and an understanding that this country was a gift from this Creator (whom we know as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ).
But our leaders have strayed from this. Many leaders have expressed that they wish to not simply have a freedom of religion, but a freedom from religion! Whereas Thomas Jefferson wrote to some Danbury Baptists in Connecticut in 1801 when running for president separation of church and state (which is the only place this is mentioned, for its not in the Constitution), this is a one-directional wall. The state cannot influence the church, but the church and its members as citizens of this country, can petition the state. Of late, this has turned on its head and been reversed.
But we dear Christians need to remember some things as we interact with our governmental leaders.
First of all, pray for, honor, and respect your leaders. In 1 Timothy 2:1-2, Paul tells Pastor Timothy:
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.
If we recognize that all authority is given by God ultimately, we need to pray that they would be influenced by the very ones who placed them in that position.
Second of all, dear Christian, our ultimate citizenship is not here and our leaders are not our ultimate kings. I remind you of two passages. One in 1 Peter 2:11-12, Peter writes to the believers:
11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
Also in Philippians 3:20-21:
20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.
While we are commanded by God to live under the leadership and the laws of the leaders he has put in place in the country he has placed us, it is temporary. Our ultimate citizenship is in heaven.
We as Christians need to quit living and reacting as if this is the place where we will live forever. Our reaction needs to be that this is not where all of us will be living!
Peter and John once told the council when they were arrested for preaching the name of Christ. They were ordered to stop. “But Peter and John answered them, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20).
Dear friends, where is your citizenship? Are you stuck here in this world outside of Christ, are you counting on leaders in this country being just and right and true and without corruption? There is a leader, a king, the Son of God who is faithful and true. The president, mayor, or governor did not die for your sin. Science can explain some things, but it cannot explain guilt, love, nor any other emotion that God placed in us.
It is only through the prism of the gospel of Jesus Christ that anything makes sense. It explains why there is so much war, poverty, injustice. Because we are all sinners wanting our own way! We are broken, messed up people from the presidency to the homeless person and all points in between. The gospel is our only hope, for it deals with our guilt and our sin and our hopelessness in ways political leaders cannot even dream to touch.