Holy Scripture: Honor and Respect Political Rulers

PaulTrial
Trial of the Apostle Paul (1875), by Nikolai Kornilievich Bodarevsky (1850-1921) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons] St. Paul showed respect and deference to the Jewish high priest, even after he had him struck on the mouth (Acts 23:5)\
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[obviously tons of sin going on constantly every day on Facebook and elsewhere online. Pray for those who (willfully and too often, habitually) fall into this, and for me and for yourself]
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1 Peter 2:17 (RSV) Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the [pagan, anti-Christian, persecuting] emperor.
 
Exodus 22:28 You shall not revile God, nor curse a ruler of your people. [cited by St. Paul in Acts 23:5 below]
 
Ecclesiastes 10:20 Even in your thought, do not curse the king, . . . 
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Titus 3:1-2 Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for any honest work, [2] to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all men.
 
James 4:11 Do not speak evil against one another, brethren. He that speaks evil against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. . . .
 
Acts 23:1-5 And Paul, looking intently at the council, said, “Brethren, I have lived before God in all good conscience up to this day.” [2] And the high priest Anani’as commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth. [3] Then Paul said to him, “God shall strike you, you whitewashed wall! Are you sitting to judge me according to the law, and yet contrary to the law you order me to be struck?” [4] Those who stood by said, “Would you revile God’s high priest?” [5] And Paul said, “I did not know, brethren, that he was the high priest; for it is written, `You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.'”
 
Romans 13:1-7 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. [2] Therefore he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. [3] For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of him who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, [4] 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; he is the servant of God to execute his wrath on the wrongdoer. [5] Therefore one must be subject, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. [6] For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. [7] Pay all of them their dues, taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due.
 

James 3:8-18 but no human being can tame the tongue — a restless evil, full of deadly poison. [9] With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who are made in the likeness of God. [10] From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brethren, this ought not to be so. [11] Does a spring pour forth from the same opening fresh water and brackish? [12] Can a fig tree, my brethren, yield olives, or a grapevine figs? No more can salt water yield fresh. [13] Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good life let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. [14] But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. [15] This wisdom is not such as comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. [16] For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. [17] But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, without uncertainty or insincerity. [18] And the harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

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Exchanges about the above from my public Facebook author page:

Michael Bulla: Does that also apply for despots like Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Kim, etc? I don’t think so.

Rod Bennett: Believe it or not, it applies even to Satan, Michael. St. Jude writes that even the Archangel Michael “did not dare to pronounce judgement on him in abusive terms, but simply said, ‘The Lord rebuke you.'” (Jude 1:9).

Michael BullaI wouldn’t condense the whole Bible to one word, but argue, that none of these despots got to power by God’s will, but seized it by themselves, either by violence or by deceit. Also, all of them banned people from spreading the gospel to all nations, as Jesus has commanded us, and last but not least, we are supposed to love our neighbors, which also includes to protect them from harm. If it was as you are saying, all the allied troops in WW2 were sinning and working against God’s will.

Dave Armstrong: Most rules have exceptions or qualifiers in extraordinary circumstances: in the Bible and in general. So, e.g., Jesus talked about turning the other cheek. Many people think that is an absolute command. It’s not at all. The Bible doesn’t teach pacifism and absolute lack of self-defense. Hence, St. Paul fought back vigorously at his trial, even appealing to Caesar (being a Roman citizen) to save himself from crucifixion and relatively worse treatment as a prisoner. That was one of the passages above, which was during his trial.

My point is that the existence of despots and tyrants and dictators does not wipe out the general, broad scriptural injunction to honor rulers. And of course, it is altogether disputable whether President Trump is a despot or tyrant or dictator.

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Bobby Bell: It also says if they are unjust you can protest or resist but you have to be ready to suffer the consequences. You can find this in Romans in the Holy Bible.

Dave Armstrong: That’s correct (e.g., Rev 13), but it is far less common of a motif than this, and even in resisting, honor and respect would have to be shown, per the above.

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Rod Bennett: It’s simply an extension of Christ own words, to love even your enemies–to bless rather than to curse. Honor and respect everyone. In other words…but especially, perhaps, those that carry great responsibilities. But we can, of course, criticize and even protest against specific policies and actions. My question now, however, is did we do unto Obama as we would have men do to Trump today? People would be much more receptive to this call not to mock or slander the President now if we had done a better job treating the other President this way.

Dave Armstrong: I did. I wrote exactly four posts about him, that I have listed on my blog, and they critiqued his policies, not him as a man, and overall jerk, liar, insane, Hitler, narcissist, dumbbell, KKK member, etc.

As to people being receptive, what you say is unfortunately a fact of human nature, but it is atrocious biblical reasoning: “you screwed up by slandering the President you didn’t like, and I detest that; therefore, I’ll be a hypocrite and commit the same sin in slandering the President I don’t like.”

That’s sort of like a diabolical, perverted “Golden Rule.”

Rod Bennett: Didn’t mean to suggest that there’s any excuse for payback. I’m just suddenly hearing calls to respect the President from people (not you, Dave) who I personally know breathed little else but malice and mockery against Obama for eight years. I’ve got one guy in my feed who, I know, once posted a picture of Obama as a monkey. Now he’s bemoaning the loss of decency and respect for authority in this nation.

Dave Armstrong: You’re absolutely right about that hypocrisy. But in the Christian life we have to rise above what has become a corrupt “norm” around us (regardless of political affiliation in this case), and model right and just and non-hypocritical behavior.

It’s a lot like moderating web pages or forums (I did that as a paid staff job for three years at The Coming Home Network). Moderators have to fairly apply the rules across the board: whether the person in violation of them is on our “side” (theologically or politically) or not.

I’ve blocked many extreme pro-Trumpists on my Facebook page, and I have banned several anti-Protestant zealots as well.

Let’s hope that biblical commands such as the ones I highlighted spread far and wide.

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