“Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God. Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.” (I Peter 2:1317)
In the past number of years Mennonite leaders and Mennonite periodicals have become increasingly vociferous in their evaluation of, and indictments against, America and her national leaders. One of the recent and most glaring examples of this appeared in and article in the January 16, 1973 issue of the Gospel Herald entitled “Bombing, Law and Order, and the Press.” In this article the President of the United States is said to have become “demonic overnight.” The writer spares no words in labeling his actions as “barbaric atrocities”, “adolescent like”, “grasping “for personal power”, one who, while emphasizing law and order, demonstrates to the world “his lack of respect for law and order” and as one guilty of the “usurping of power in pounding Viet Nam to death.” In his attitudes the President is said to be arrogant, proud and working independently of the feelings of Congress and the “concerns of every other country in the world.” He is compared with Herod when he slaughtered the infants at the time of Christ's birth and it is suggested that his deeds “must smell to high heaven.” It is further stated that any nation that will tolerate such arrogance cannot last long, and that the President's “news blackout.. .means that great danger is present.”
Now it was at a time when Christians were “scattered” and “suffering” at the hands of the government that Peter admonished them to “Fear God. Honour the King.” (I Pet. 2:17) In his second epistle, characterizing a certain class of prophets he says that 'they are not afraid to speak evil of “dignities,” and that they “speak evil of those things that they understand not.” (II Peter 2:10, 12).
And really, who among us understands enough about the overruling providence of God in world conditions to know whether the President was placing, the nation in great danger or saving it in nit great danger? And if great danger is present and a national collapse is imminent, is the national leader to blame or do we look somewhere else for the real cause? Did not our Lord say that the Church is the salt of the earth? Perhaps we should look at the immodesty, immorality, rebellion, anarchy, disrespect, disobedience, moral and spiritual decadence and general worldliness of the church as the prime cause for danger. Amen?
When the Church calls upon national leaders to repent and employ a more “just and honorable” way, as the article referred to also implies, she is asking something that the New Testament nowhere commands. Remember, there is not one single New Testament Scripture directed to the state or national leaders with regards as to how they should rule. Neither Jesus nor Paul nor Peter offers one word of correction or one word of complaint to the tyrannical nation in which they lived. The Bible does not provide a code of ethics or pattern of behavior for those who belong to the world. The state is now a part of an unregenerate society and therefore no direction is given to it in the New Testament. Romans 13:1-7 outlines for us the attitude and responsibility the Christian is to have toward the state and some of the functions of the state including the revenging of evil within an evil society even to the point of capital punishment. But it gives no word of direction to the state.
From Biblical history we learn that a sovereign God uses nations to punish and destroy other nations within the non-Christian world. God called Nebuchadnezzar “my servant” to make Jerusalem desolate because of their sins. (Jeremiah 25:9). Later, when Babylon was ripe for judgment, God called the Medes “my battle axe and weapon of war “to bring Babylon to desolation (Jeremiah 51:20).
In the dispensation of grace God has reserved for Himself the right to (over) rule in the kingdoms of men. He has not delegated this task to the Church. Let not the Church be guilty
of intruding into that winch God has not delegated to her. In our Lord's last message to the Churches He did, however, call upon the Churches to correct the disorders that existed within their walls.
That this nation may be on the verge of a downfall we would not question. But if we would have the tranquility of the nation lengthened we can help the most by focusing our corrections on the Church, which the state has no right to be involved in, and by refraining from defaming and correcting the State which is altogether separate from the Church and is outside the Church's responsibility.
Reprinted in April 2004
Originally published March of 1973 in the Eastern Mennonite Testimony