We the People – Christians and Obedience

In this article, Karl – singer of Pantokrator and Melech – uses several scriptures from the Bible to show how Christians are challenged in their freedom in today’s world and what it means for a Christian to be obedient to “the world”.

I am ashamed to see the supposed rebels of the Black Metal scene bowing to the “new religion”. I am embarrassed when I hear people like them say that there are limits to what people can say.

This bothers me not as a Christian, but as a metalhead. Come on! Who is evil here? Since when do you care if you offend someone?

(1) 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. (2) Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.  

Rom 13

Being the metalhead I am with a rebellious streak, these verses are some of the worst I know in the entire Bible. But being the Christian that I am, I know that if the Bible says one thing and I say another, then I am the one who is wrong.

So what does the Bible say in context? And what can we learn from the actions of Saint Paul, who wrote these words? Let us investigate: I have chosen to use our song “WE THE PEOPLE” as a guide to the Word in this study.

We are custodians of God

“We” in this case is not just us Christians, but all of mankind. Let’s start at the beginning:

The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.

Gen 2:15

Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name.

Gen 2:19

We can see that God did not intend to rule the world with us as spectators. Satan could never have taken the world that God created for us unless we handed it over.

Another example of how God works through man is found in 1 Sam 8:4-22 where God, against better advice, establishes a monarchy according to the demands of His people.

(4) So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. (5) They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.” (6) But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. (7) And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. (8) As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. (9) Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.”

(10) Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. (11) He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. (12) Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. (13) He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. (14) He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. (15) He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. (16) Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. (17) He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. (18) When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”

(19) But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. (20) Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.” (21) When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before the Lord. (22) The Lord answered, “Listen to them and give them a king.”

Then Samuel said to the Israelites, “Everyone go back to your own town.”

1 Sam 8:4-22

Yet we see how God brought forth the Messiah from this flawed institution of man and from the broken line of David. What does all this have to do with us who live in the age of the Church? Paul says that we should pray for those in authority so that we can live a peaceful life:

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people (2) for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. (3) This is good, and pleases God our Savior, (4) who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

1 Tim 2:1-4

This was written under the tyranny of Rome, where there were no elections, no right to vote, prayer was all they had. We should still pray, of course, but we have been given so much more, and “to whom much is given, much is required”:

But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.

Luke 12:48

(24) “Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. (25) So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’

(26) “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? (27) Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

Matt 25:24-27

This makes it clear that the idea that “he who does nothing can do no wrong” will not fly with the Lord.

I have met many Christians who act as if it is some kind of virtue to take abuse from an unrighteous government. They have read that “we shall be hated. “The Master did not say that we should be hated, only that we would be.

We know these words, we know that we are set apart, we see through this lens. Our mistake is to assume that the flesh puppets of darkness know why they hate us. I doubt that they think, “they have the truth and we hate them because we serve the lie”. That is the catch: When we say it is okay for them to abuse us (because it is our cross to bear), we are saying it is okay for them to do it to others. This is the dark side of “love thy neighbor as thyself”.

Take China for example. Are they persecuting our Christian brothers and sisters because they are Christians or because they hold something higher than the state? That they cannot be governed when push comes to shove? I have a clue for you: they have Muslims in labor camps, they persecute the Falungong. Are the Muslims persecuted because of the Light? Are the Falungong in the service of truth? Those who want to be gods of men will hate all other gods, they are jealous to worship.

Maybe they hate Christians more, maybe they see us as more of a threat? But do they understand why? I think that is giving them too much credit. Allowing discrimination instead of demanding all the rights that our governments say are given to a citizen because we are Christians! That is a special kind of filthy pride masquerading as piety that we should repent of if we love our fellow man.

Before we look at how Paul dealt with the powers, let us look at other verses. Let us listen to St. Peter:

(13) Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, (14) or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.

1 Peter 2:13-14

Peter says to submit. But he also says that we must obey God more than men:

Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings!

Acts 5:29

So when is it time to stand and when is it time to bow? Where is the line in the sand? What is the right of government?

Authority comes from God, but so does gravity. The fact that gravity is from God, does that mean that what happens when I push someone out of a window is the will of God? I think the answer is both.

13 (1) Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. (2) Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. (3) For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended.

(4) For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. (5) Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.

(6) This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing.

Rom 13:1-6

(13) Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, (14) or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.

1 Peter 2:13-14

I believe that the authority of the “powers that be” is based on the task given to the authorities: To punish the wicked, to protect and praise the peaceful. When they do the opposite, they are no longer the sword of God. They are the beast, and we owe them nothing but our contempt and our resistance. A thug with a badge is still a thug, but more despicable than other thugs because he wears the robe of the law.

The Cathecism of the Catholic Church

I have to hand it to the Catholics on this one, even though I am an angry Protestant with no respect for the papacy. No one says it better than the Catholics when it comes to this. When it comes to this, they are a little softer on the powers that be than I would like to be, but still tougher than I dare be.

1901 If authority belongs to the order established by God, “the choice of the political regime and the appointment of rulers are left to the free decision of the citizens.”

The diversity of political regimes is morally acceptable, provided they serve the legitimate good of the communities that adopt them. Regimes whose nature is contrary to the natural law, to the public order, and to the fundamental rights of persons cannot achieve the common good of the nations on which they have been imposed.

Catechism of the Catholic Church

1902 Authority does not derive its moral legitimacy from itself. It must not behave in a despotic manner, but must act for the common good as a “moral force based on freedom and a sense of responsibility”: A human law has the character of law to the extent that it accords with right reason, and thus derives from the eternal law. Insofar as it falls short of right reason it is said to be an unjust law, and thus has not so much the nature of law as of a kind of violence.

Catechism of the Catholic Church

1923 Political authority must be exercised within the limits of the moral order and must guarantee the conditions for the exercise of freedom.

Catechism of the Catholic Church

2242 The citizen is obliged in conscience not to follow the directives of civil authorities when they are contrary to the demands of the moral order, to the fundamental rights of persons or the teachings of the Gospel. Refusing obedience to civil authorities, when their demands are contrary to those of an upright conscience, finds its justification in the distinction between serving God and serving the political community. “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” “We must obey God rather than men”: When citizens are under the oppression of a public authority which oversteps its competence, they should still not refuse to give or to do what is objectively demanded of them by the common good; but it is legitimate for them to defend their own rights and those of their fellow citizens against the abuse of this authority within the limits of the natural law and the Law of the Gospel.

Catechism of the Catholic Church

Now let us look at how Paul dealt with the powers:

(25) As they stretched him out to flog him, Paul said to the centurion standing there, “Is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen who hasn’t even been found guilty?” (26) When the centurion heard this, he went to the commander and reported it. “What are you going to do?” he asked. “This man is a Roman citizen.” (27) The commander went to Paul and asked, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?” “Yes, I am,” he answered. (28) Then the commander said, “I had to pay a lot of money for my citizenship.” “But I was born a citizen,” Paul replied.

Acts 22:25-28

Should we assume that Paul placed any value on his identity as a Roman? I think not! In another passage he says that he threw everything away to win Christ: His own righteousness according to the law.

(5) Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; (6) Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. (7) But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. (8) Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, (9) And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.

Phil 3:5-9

With this attitude, I doubt he had any pride in being a citizen of “Babylon,” the pagan oppressor of God’s people. This is not about Paul’s rights, this is about Rome’s obligations. – These are YOUR laws, YOU must obey them (this is what he is saying to Rome, though not in all those words).

I believe this is what we should do as well. As long as they claim democracy, we demand democracy. As long as they talk about freedom, we will not let them off the hook. As long as they say we have freedom of speech, we speak freely. Remember, whatever we allow for ourselves, we allow for others.

I encourage you to read the following chapters of the Acts of the Apostles (23-24). This leads up to the Romans providing Paul with an armed escort of 470 soldiers (70 of them cavalry) to protect Paul from 40 angry Jewish zelots (imagine the cost) Did they care that much about an extra annoying Jewish scribe? Probably not. But they did care about a challenge to their authority.

UN declarations of human rights

I recommend that you read the UN declarations of human rights so that you know what your state owes you (just as Paul did). I don’t know what nations you all come from, but I bet most of you come from countries that have signed and affirmed this. So this is what you hold them to.

Think about exactly which of your rights in these articles your governments have violated. They will never tell you what they owe you, it’s easier for them if you don’t remember. You will have to remind them.

We the People … we are to blame, it is our choice and our shame,
when we sell our rights for bread and games
Like Edom for a bowl of stew
Wanton and lewd
We trade our freedom for false security…

PANTOKRATOR – We the people

In His service / Karl the Swede

About the author: My name is Karl. I am a citizen first in the Kingdom of God and second in a constitutional monarchy in the North. I made a commitment to Christ when I was 12 years old and was baptized into the Kingdom about 2 years later. I write and “sing” the lyrics for Pantokrator and Melech.

Image: Matts Skagshöj

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