Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honour to whom honour. Romans 13:5-7
The current situation has left many Christians confused about the role of the State (government) versus that of the Church. For instance, should the Church cooperate with the State when the latter prohibits all groups of people (including religious gatherings) to gather in order to stop the spread of the pandemic? By submitting to governmental directives, is the Church abdicating it’s duties? Answers to such pertinent questions can be derived from a study of God’s view of the two institutions (Church and State) as revealed in the Scriptures.
While it’s readily understood that the Church is the light of the world and salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13-16), what many don’t know is that the State also has a special role in God’s scheme of things. Some believers think of the State as the enemy of the Church and the Lord. Yet the Word of God teaches quite clearly that such a view needs not be the case (see Romans 13:1-7).
In fact, just as much as the Church is God’s sacred institution, so the State constitutes God’s ordinance, ministers and instruments for the sake of law and order. So the Church exists to provide sacred, moral and spiritual leadership in the world on behalf of Christ, while the State exists to provide social and civic leadership also on behalf of the Lord.
Therefore it’s wrong for believers to adopt a de facto hostile attitude towards government. We then run the risk of being in conflict with God’s will and purpose for society. So unless we are aware of the State’s actual violation of God’s law, we are duty bound to cooperate with government.
There is an honour that belongs to the State which we must render to it. Good Christians are law-abiding citizens. We must also pray for the government, from a perspective of understanding their God-given role in society (1 Timothy 2:1-4). Society thrives when both the Church and the State faithfully function in their respective roles. It thrives even more when Church and State collaborate and complement each other’s efforts to serve the nation from a sacred as well as a civic point of view.
Did you know that in the Millenium and beyond, there will no longer be a separation of, or conflict between Church and State? We can begin to enjoy a foretaste of that reality if we serve the people together without unnecessary misunderstanding, judgment or suspicion.
Let us, as the Church continue to fulfil our God-given role faithfully. Part of it is to pray for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. We should also humble ourselves, forsake our wicked ways, and pray for national healing as well as for the State to lead wisely and peacefully. Let us not neglect our duty even when we cannot meet face-to-face for a season. Prayer has no spatial limits!