Yesterday morning, the beautiful bride caught me with a thought she had gleaned while reading some of Charles Spurgeon’s writings. Spurgeon is one of my all time favorites, and I’m hopeful that as she continues to read him, she will become convinced more than ever that I need to grow a Spurgeon-esque beard.
Beard growing is not what this post is about though. In her reading, she was struck by his inclusion of a verse from Daniel. She shared it with me, shared her thoughts with me (so, really this post is nearly completely framed in by her) and by doing so, it became my consistent muse throughout the day.
Here is the verse: “Then the high officials and the satraps sought to find a ground for complaint against Daniel with regard to the kingdom, but they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him.” (Daniel 6:4, ESV)
We can and should read this passage, and the overall story arc of Daniel’s life and character, with admiration. Just a simple understanding of Daniel’s life would lead you to conclude that his is an example worth following – passionate about the Lord and and strong in character. What jumps off the page is the fact that Daniel was doing this while under the rule of a pagan nation. His conduct was so above reproach that even those who wanted to deal harshly with him could not find anything legitimate to complain about. If he were in American schools, his conduct would have earned him the good citizenship award, with a fancy ribbon and a perhaps even a fancy certificate. We see in his life that he did not neglect His worship of the One True God (which the Babylonians were not real thrilled with) but in nearly every other way, he submitted to the authority over him.
I’m afraid we are lacking men like Daniel today in our churches. We (because I know I am just as guilty) are really good at following God, but not so good at following the government laws. That whole Romans 13 idea gets in the way, as does Jesus’ summary statement about taxes (and broadly includes other forms of government submission) in Mark 12:17. Kind of puts aspects of our God following in question, does it not?
I am not suggesting our government is wise or infallible. In fact, there are strong arguments that multiple antonyms of those words are the better description. What I am suggesting is that our government was ordained by a sovereign God, and we are called to submit to it. Are there exceptions? Yes, generally when they promote or require something in direct violation of God’s Word, but even then, we must be willing to accept the consequences for that – go back and read the first 7 chapters of Daniel. Are some of the laws our government has come up with unfair, unwise, unhelpful, or unnecessary? Absolutely. I am politically conservative, with some shading of libertarianism, so I’m not interested in any more governmental overreach. But I do not have the permission to openly defy those laws. Pick your battle of dumb laws, and I”ll probably agree with you that it is a dumb law and is the result of a nanny state mentality. But I will disagree that you have permission to violate that law just because you think it is dumb. Daniel endured equally dumb laws (if not worse), yet his opponents could not find fault. My concern is that in the lives of many Christians, much fault could be found. If we are going to cause people to stumble, let them stumble over the cross, not over us being bad citizens.
The law says pay your taxes. Jesus said it too, by the way. So, pay your taxes.
The law says wear a helmet when you ride a bike. So, put on a helmet.
The law says put on a seatbelt when you are in a moving vehicle. So, get buckled big guy.
The law says you can only go as fast in your vehicle as the signs say. So, slow down.
The law says you need to turn in such and such forms. So, get your pen out.
You don’t like the law? Then change it. That’s the beautiful thing about America – laws can be changed. But until it is changed, submit. If you have not been submitting, repent. Your repentance will be evident in your submission. Let those of us who claim the name of Christ be found to be good citizens, not for our sake, but so that we bring no reproach on Christ and His gospel.