When Venky comes home weary after a hard-day’s labor he has a way of unwinding. Tune into CNN IBN at 9:00 p.m on any given day and you’ll know what I’m talking about. If it’s not an IPL cricket match, then it must be the Indian Politician’s Lambasting sessions. Every showcase has a few small goondas and a mastermind villain. Our beloved press-mate Rajdeep Sardesai bashes up these villains and plays the Messiah each episode. And We the People, the TRP eyeballs, mock our enemies, verbally quashing them every now and then and lobbying our case with family members and friends who occasionally sit in to witness the unfurling of our country’s shameful national drama. And if there’s nobody hearing us, then we will certainly have our audience with FB, where our wall is our megaphone and every stalker a potential audience. I wonder which is sadder –villanous politicians or foolish civilians.
We live in a peaceful democratic country where wars, if any, are pushed to the borders and we have a “say” in almost every issue at hand. We can choose a city to live in, build a house, farm our land, grow a business, educate our children and even invoke the RTI if we suffer any personal injury. We can practice our faith in public, and even call out people to reason with truth. We must, of all people be most grateful. But we are not. John Frame makes mention of a certain set of theological giants, in his brief paper ‘Machen’s warrior children‘ who vehemently opposed liberal theology, but once having found themselves in good company “were unable to moderate their martial impulses. Being in a church without liberals to fight, they turned on one another.” To a certain degree this is true of us Indians. Having no wars to wage without, we have mass-militated against our elected leaders and governing systems.
We prefer lobbying our case with rebels who claim heritage with ‘Gandhi’ rather than seek scriptural precepts for law and order. If nothing works, lets join hands with someone who’s stirring up a movement. Don’t question whether it’s biblical or not, as long as the sum total is good, let’s add in our efforts. Now, let me make it absolutely clear that I do not condone the wickedness that is prevailing in our political bureaus. I’m only concerned about the way in which we are conducting ourselves against such evil. The Bible commands us to “overcome evil with good”, not to have an “eye for an eye”. Such short-term impulses will not help us win this country for Christ. Let us turn to the Scriptures to see how God wants us to behave under such circumstances.
In Romans 13* Paul lays out a clear command: Let every person be subject to the governing authorities (Rom 13:1). He could have stopped right there, offering no explanation. But the situation then called for one. Imagine being under the governance of a tyrannical ruler, whose equal in today’s world would be none less than a Hitler – a hater of God and everything good. Yet, under such circumstances Paul calls for patience and longsuffering, to submit to the ruling Roman authorities despite their evil agendas. Paul offers three succinct reasons for the same, which DO NOT change with age:-
1. Rulers are ordained by God (Rom 13:1b)
They are ministers of God (v6), having equal authority in the sight of God with leaders of local churches. This also brings clarity to the truth that governments are not intrinsically evil, as most Jehovah’s Witnesses tout, and hence refrain from voting for leaders.
2. A rebellion against God appointed authorities is a rebellion against God and will incur judgement (Rom 13:2).
There are umpteen examples from Scriptures that shed light on this principle. Miriam opposed Moses and was spit on the face by her Father (Num 12:2-11). Korah’s clan did the same mistake and was swallowed whole by the earth (Num 16:1-35). (Alright, they’re all rebelling against a good leader. Let me give you a better example). Zedekiah was told to bend his knee to Nebuchadnezzar and surrender, else his clan would be wiped out and Jerusalem burnt (Jer 38:17). True to that prophesy, his rebellion as a vassal king earned him death and Jerusalem was gutted (Jer39:1-8).
Now, there is an important exception to this principle. Take note of the imperative “will incur judgement”. Of who? You may ask. Of God. And God will not judge those who resist leaders in obedience to His commands. This too is Scriptural. The Hebrew midwives feared God and disobeyed the Pharoah (Exo1:15-17) and so did the Magi, against King Herod (Matt 2:12). Daniel refused to bow down to the idol and incurred the king’s wrath, and so did his three friends. Peter disobeyed the elders and priests ruling in the temple for the sake of the Gospel (Acts 4:18-20). Therefore God doesn’t expect obedience to the King if that meant paying obeisance to his dictates and gods.
3. Rulers are God’s servants for GOOD (Rom 13:3-4)
Rulers are ordained up-keepers of the law. They will not bear the sword in vain and hence we are to honor them and fear them (v3,4). Although in reality, corruption breeds in the upper and lower houses, and rulers call evil good, and good evil (Is 5:20), Paul is here beckoning us to honor that blessed chair -the authority of the ordained position – even if the man seated on it is a crook. God is the ultimate judge of rulers, we are not. If we usurp their authority as law-keepers then we will be no better than a Libya, Egypt or an Iraq of our day which have paled out owing to political anarchy.
Soch ka Bhoj
It is true that our blood boils when we see the corruption in our land. After a while our anger simmers into a loathful cynicism and later dissolves into a Tamasha for all of us to be entertained with. While jokes can be laughed at, we must be wary of making this our preferred response to national issues. Instead our anger must be channelized as groans and complaints before our Lord, who ever hears us to make intercessions with the Father. Why, the Psalmist prayed for us thousands of years ago in Ps 2, when he fumed at the arrogance of nations who bent not their knees to Yahweh. Ultimately their injustice is not towards us, but towards a Just and Avenging God. Remember, Christ, our glorious King is working out His Kingdom, to bring everything under His feet, including our rulers and kings (Eph 1:22, 1Cor 15:24-28) and the way He goes about achieving His Sovereign plans and purposes is through the Scriptural imperatives of submission and prayer for authorities. Therefore, with this glorious hope, we must pray for our leaders (1 Tim 2:1-4) for this is good and pleasing in the sight of God our Savior. J.C Ryle sums up what I have to say, wonderfully well :
“It is easy to criticize and find fault with the conduct of kings, and write furious articles against them in newspapers, or make violent speeches about them on platforms. Any fool can rip and rend a costly garment, but not every man can cut out and make one. To expect perfection in kings, prime ministers, or rulers of any king, is senseless and unreasonable. We would exhibit more wisdom if we prayed for them more, and criticized less.” ~ J.C. Ryle
- Do Christian Civil Governments Lead to the Persecution of Unbelievers?
- Should Christians be Anarchists? (newleftproject.org)
- On Civil Resistance