During this period, from the town of Qufu, in the state of Lu (now Shandong), a government official named Confucius became well known for his views on social order. Becoming disenchanted with the government of Lu, he resigned and devoted his life to the development of a philosophic system that would show how a “true gentleman” should conduct himself, and how one in the position of governance should rule. At one point Confucius makes a statement to those who would find themselves in positions of authority: Consideration for others is the basis of a good life, a good society.
The intention was to instruct those in governance to rule for the purpose of providing what is in the long-term best interests of the ruled, and not for the enhancement of power or wealth among themselves.
If a government does what it feels is in the best interest of its people, how should people react if they disagree with the approach of those in power? This is a serious question. There are many possible answers to this question. Some would say demonstrate, protest and refuse to obey. But what should be the approach of one who claims to be a Christian?
Thousands of kilometres west of China, in the land of ancient Israel, another set of writings were still being developed at the time Confucius was formulating his ideas. These writings were compiled over a period of 1500 years, and today are known as the Bible. They were finished at a time when the Jewish nation was dealing with a loss of sovereignty to Roman authority. Thus between AD 31 to AD 95 there were many questions asked by Jews who had accepted the Christian faith about how God would have them deal with the situation. Should they protest? Should they revolt? There were many in their society encouraging them to do so, as Roman rule was applied more thoroughly. The early leaders of the faith, who had been taught by Christ personally, provided the answer. It may not have been the answer the people wanted to hear, but it was the answer that if followed would lead to the best long-term result.
The Apostle Peter gives this instruction:
Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as Bondservants of God. Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king (1 Peter 2:13-17).
The Apostle Paul, whom God used to carry His message to non-Jews makes this statement:
Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence (1 Timothy 2:1-2).
From the Bible it is very clear that a follower of God will not be involved in protests or stand in opposition to government, but put issues before God in prayer, that He may guide the affairs of those who are in positions of authority to rule for the benefit of all. We are to pray that rulers will be given wisdom to allow us to live a peaceful and prosperous life. It is our personal responsibility to be hard-working, productive and law-abiding citizens, which if we do, we will grow in favour with God and man.
This is how a true Christian responds to government.