Sunday 27 April 2014 was Freedom Day in South Africa and we remembered our first democratic election 20 years ago. The question as to how the Christian community should respond to the civil authorities has always been a burning question. In South Africa, while an immense amount of good has been done, we hear a lot about corruption in government, wasteful spending and the unwise, even illegal, use of state resources. What should our attitude be towards the governing authorities? Many Christians make fun of the government on Facebook, post defamatory pictures of the State President and ridicule the cabinet ministers in typical conversation with others. Is this right?
Romans 13:1-7 is a very controversial passage as it says that Christians should be subject to the governing authorities. This very passage has been abused in our own country. In the 1980’s Michael Cassidy, a fine Christian man committed to racial integration, had a meeting with the then president of SA, PW Botha. Michael Cassidy was representing the National Initiative for Reconciliation. PW Botha began the meeting by reading this part of Romans – meaning to imply that any criticism of the government was unchristian and unbiblical.
During the 1930’s and 1940’s the Nazi Regime came to power in Germany and it was their official policy to oppress and kill Jewish people and other minority groups. What were Christians to do? Sadly, a large portion of the church did nothing. Yet a minority stood up against the Nazis and many were imprisoned and executed for their opposition. Where they right in opposing the government?