Are Christians subject to the laws of the land?
Believers in Christ are citizens of Heaven (Philippians 3:20). Even so, we are also citizens of this world – of a certain nation, province, city, township, burg, county, or other such division. It is popular to say that we are in the world but not of it. Even though we are not of this world, we are still called to interact in the world in a way that glorifies God. This includes honoring our leaders and obeying the laws of our lands.
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Romans 13:1-7 discusses appropriate submission to earthly authorities. Paul writes, "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed." Incidentally, Jesus also affirmed that His followers should pay taxes (Mark 12:13-17). As a general rule, then, Christians should honor and submit to the authorities that have been placed over them. God is orderly and desires that we live at peace with one another (1 Corinthians 14:33; Hebrews 12:14; Romans 12:18). Often, the laws of the land are set up so that we will have orderly and peaceful societies.
Certainly our governmental authorities are not perfect, nor do they always follow God's plans. However, inasmuch as the authority is not contradicting God's explicit Word, we are to obey. For those times when our authorities contradict God's Word and ask us to do things contrary to the laws of God, we are expected to disobey and honor God instead. Peter and the apostles are recorded as defying the governmental authorities of their day in Acts 5. The men had been instructed not to speak about Jesus and were caught doing so. They responded by saying, "We must obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29). It is important to note that the men were still respectful of their authorities. They submitted to the punishment for their unlawful behavior and "left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name" (Acts 5:41).
So, yes, Christians are expected to obey the laws of the land and thereby honor God. However, when the laws of the land contradict the laws of God, Christians can disobey earthly rulers.
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