Romans 13:1 NKJV says “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God”. Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, we’ve been encouraging you to pray for our leaders. But some of our guests have also questioned, or even criticised, our government’s approach to flattening the curve. When they critique that authority, are they disobeying a clear instruction from the Bible?
Our government is a democracy, and as Martyn Iles from the Australian Christian Lobby points out, that gives us the right to be vigilant, and to take our misgivings to the ballot box if we’re unhappy.
But he also points out that governments are made up of people, and people can be untrustworthy and fallible. “It would be foolish to think that they’ve all got wonderful intent, and they’re all wonderful people. That’s not quite right. And so I think there’s a balance to be found.”
Some people argue that when we criticise our leaders, that’s not honouring the government. “Well actually it is,” Iles said, “because the government has put in place an environment called democracy, where it encourages that sort of thing. That’s perfectly ok to do. That’s part of the system we live in.”
And so yes we pray for them. Yes, we honour them. We obey them. But at the same time, we speak, when we can, and when it’s an important issue.
A lot of a modern government’s work is enforcing what is right and wrong through the law. But God has revealed to us his perfect moral standards to live by. “And so Christians can have a voice for God in the nation, in the community, by speaking up for what is right and what is wrong, and holding governments to account.”
Iles says democracy has protected us from the kind of corruption we see in places like the Middle East, Africa, and even Venezuela and Argentina. “In the West, we have been blessed with a certain stability, because Christian notions our out there, and well-understood and embraced, but also because we’ve been able to advance them freely in the public squares.”
When that freedom is threatened, Iles says it’s a dangerous step toward tyranny, because it offers the chance for people to limit our rights to live according to our convictions, or even do what God requires of us. That’s why Christians as far back as biblical times have spoken up whenever authorities have tried to limit freedom.
Iles says it’s always important to question anything that’s bad for the principle of freedom. The federal government’s new COVIDSafe contact tracing app is one example. “I might be happy with giving some of my personal information to Scott Morrison’s government, because I think they’re basically trustworthy. I support their ambitions. I’m in a situation here where it’s not a big problem for me. I’ve got nothing to hide.”
“But I always say think about it on the basis of principle. What if the government was someone who was ideologically opposed to you, and what if the government was someone you didn’t trust? Would you still be happy for them to do this?”
If the answer’s no, then stop and think, because these things are always incremental. And here’s the other thing. Governments change regularly, and they can change significantly, particularly in the volatile times in which we live, in which lots of people are quite disenfranchised, particularly young people, with governing authority. And they’ll vote for all sorts of people.”
In his conversation with Neil Johnson, Martin Iles spoke more about how incremental changes can gradually erode our freedoms. He also gave some examples of how people in authority who are ideologically opposed to the ACL have taken advantage of their power. And he pointed out some timely wisdom from the Apostle Paul, who was challenged by authority everywhere he went. Listen to the podcast below for all that and more.
Tune into 20Twenty and join the conversation with Neil Johnson, weekdays on Vision Christian Radio. Click here for your local times.