Sunday: Church and State

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Though written long ago, the Bible nevertheless touches on issues very relevant today, such as the relationship between Christians and their government.

In some cases, it’s pretty obvious. Revelation chapter 13 talks about a time when obeying the political powers would mean disobeying God. In such a case, our choice is clear. (See Thursday’s study.)

Church and State

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Read 1 Peter 2:13-17. What is the Word generally telling us here about how to relate to the government?

The evils of the Roman Empire were well-known to those living within its borders. It had grown at the somewhat capricious will of ambitious men using ruthless military force. It met any resistance with violence. Systematic torture and death by crucifixion were just two of the horrors it inflicted upon those it punished. The Roman government was riddled by nepotism and corruption. The ruling elite exercised power with total arrogance and ruthlessness. Despite all this, Peter urges his readers to accept the authority of every human institution in the empire, from emperor to governor (1 Pet. 2:13-14, NIV).

Peter argues that emperors and governors punish those who do wrong, and praise those who do right (1 Pet. 2:14). In doing this, they have an important role in shaping society.

In fact, for all its faults, the Roman Empire provided stability. It brought freedom from war. It distributed a harsh justice but a justice based nevertheless on the rule of law. It built roads and established a monetary system to support its military needs. In doing so, Rome created an environment in which the population was able to grow and in many cases prosper. Seen in this light, Peter’s comments about government make good sense. No government is perfect, and certainly not the one that Peter and the church he wrote to lived under. So what we can learn from him is that Christians need to seek to be good citizens, obeying the law of the land as much as they possibly can, even if the government they live under is anything but perfect.

Why is it important for Christians to be as good citizens as possible, even in less-than-ideal political situations? What can you do to make your society better, even in a small way?

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Source: Daily Sabbath School Lessons