Scripture reveals some biblical principles Christians can keep in mind when they may not agree with their government or specific policies.
Honour Human Authorities
Like Paul, Peter encouraged his readers to represent Christ well, saying: “Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honour the emperor” (1 Peter 2:17).
But, we may ask: If submitting to the authorities is about honouring the office of a government official, can we do it without respecting the person who fills it? Is that what Jesus and the apostles had intended—for us to respect and honour positions of authority, and not individuals?
In addressing this question, we need to keep in mind that Paul and Peter were writing to people living under the authority of emperors—emperors who were punishing Christians for refusing to give them the honour that the Christians believed was due only to God.
Paul knew what it meant to face leaders who exercised religious and civil authority unfairly (Acts 22:30–23:5). In fact, when he wrote his letter to Titus, he had been wrongfully imprisoned for his faith.
Yet, despite this deep personal injustice, he firmly upheld the principle that leaders should be respected. He instructed Titus to remind followers of Christ “to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good” (Titus 3:1).
Being subject, then, also includes respecting the people in positions of government.
But what if a government tells us to do something that we feel is completely against our Christian faith?
The Scriptures make it clear that respect for leaders does not mean unqualified compliance.
The New Testament apostles showed us that there are times when we appeal to the higher authority of God. When the Jewish rulers forbade Peter and John from talking about the resurrection of Jesus, the apostles responded: “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19–20).
These apostles were not criminals. Rather, they were living in the spirit of Daniel, who centuries earlier had refused to comply with government-enforced idolatry. For his courage, Daniel was thrown into a lions’ den.
Yet, Daniel’s gracious but courageous response to this injustice clearly shows that he did not have issues with authority. When he emerged unscathed from the lions’ den, he said to the king:
“May the king live forever! My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, Your Majesty.” (Daniel 6:21–22)
When we have issues with our government, we would do well to consider the way Daniel respectfully resisted King Darius.
The courage to comply with God’s Word rather than obeying man is one thing. Dishonouring our leaders is another.
Daniel and David chose to show honour while respectfully dissenting and disagreeing.
For example, when’s the last time you prayed and gave thanks for leaders—including those whom you disagree with?