Over the last few months, the British government has been battling with the issue of Brexit and we might be asking ourselves – What is going to happen? Can we trust our government? What is the role of a disciple of Jesus in all this?
There are a few books available that deal with the relationship between the Christian Faith and Politics and Mark Dever’s small book “God and Politics” is a valuable addition to this field. If you are wrestling with the issues about the sovereignty of God verses the sovereignty of the state then this is the book for you.
Dever responds to one of his Muslim friends who challenged him “That’s the problem with the Christian Faith, you have no vision for state, for society as a whole”. The motivation behind this statement is the belief that the Christian faith is all about heavenly joy, looking forward to the New Heaven and New Earth.
Dever develops a Biblical Theology on Mark 12-13-17 where he draws from Jesus’ experience of this very dilemma when the Pharisees ask Jesus about paying the Roman Tax to Caesar. Dever composes a very detailed exposition of the passage and suggests that Jesus is establishing a new understanding of government when he say “Give back to Caesars what is Caesar’s and Give back to God what is God’s”. By saying this Jesus is affirming the legitimacy of the Political state. Christians are called to be good citizens to the state, to be a blessing to those around us even though in many countries that will be more difficult. God’s initial charge at creation was to form governance (Genesis 1:28) for the stewardship of the whole world. The Bible is very clear “God is sovereign over all and that the state is His servant.” (p20). The purpose of a government is to bless those whom they have been entrusted with but also be accountable to God. If the State is God’s servant we must give to the state what it is due because by honouring the state we are in turn honouring the living God.
Jesus shows to us that government is not restricted to a stretch of land, whether a state supports the worship of the one true God or even allows it because our true governance is in Christ. Christians are international, from all nations and we are not constricted to land. But we are not just accountable to state but to God too. Jesus makes a clear distinction that Caesar is not God. We are to obey the state but not worship the state. We are fallen human beings and governments are a gathering of fallen corrupt human beings for they do not cover the vastness of God’s character. How can fallen human beings have ultimate authority? Only the maker and creator of the world has that honour. There is our hope when we face corrupted and unjust governments – they will not last – they will crumble and fall, yet the Lord will reign for all eternity.
Dever concluded by saying his friend’s challenge was too shallow. Jesus came to do something far deeper, to actually change our whole hearts. We are to endure fallen governments but also work for something which is much better, an eternity with God. “Go ahead and give to Caesar what is Caesar’s but then give to God what is God’s and remember that you belong to God, all of you.” (p55). I really recommend this book and may it help you grasp a better understanding between our Christian relationship with the state and government.