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After the election 

This is also why you pay taxes,  for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes;  if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honour, then honour. (Romans 13:6-7, NIV)

On election day we did a quick poll as a church staff team to see who’d vote for who.  It was a secret ballot, so I don’t know individual preferences, even though I’m tempted to guess!

What was striking was that all three of the main parties (Conservative, Labour and Lib Dem) had several people voting for them.  I guess that this mirrors us as a church, too.  There is real diversity amongst Christians on this matter, and no single “party line”.

But this very diversity means that inevitably many will come out disappointed with the result.  Such is the case in a multi-party democracy.  In the country as a whole, such outcomes will tempt many to loathe, disparage and disregard the incoming government.

Christians should not. 

Writing to Christians in Rome, Paul tells his readers that they should be subject to the governing authorities, and express that by submitting to them, paying tax and giving proper respect (Romans 13:1-7).

The reason he gives is that the authorities have, ultimately, been established by God.  They are His gift to us - not just for the sake of co-ordinating our activities as a society, but to restrain evil.  Such is the human heart that we actually need the apparatus of the state to maintain a law and order that would otherwise disappear: witness the terrifying violence which normally prevails in failed states, where there is no effective government.

Of course, there is a limit to such obedience and respect - where the authorities directly tell us to contradict God’s law.  “We must obey God rather than human beings!”, said Peter when brought before Jerusalem’s religious court (Acts 5:29).  As Paul teaches here in Romans, the state’s authority is derived from God.  It is not to be seen as absolute.

But this said, we must show proper respect, even to a government we personally may not have desired - and no-one that Paul was writing to in ancient Rome had voted for theirs!  

In the UK we have a habit of being particularly rude about politicians, and cynical about all they do.  So while we are right to engage in the political process and join the debate about government policies, let’s avoid such cynicism.  Rather, we should thank God that He has given us a government, flawed though they always are.  And, as Paul tells us later (1 Tim 2:1-3), let us also pray for those who are in authority.

Alasdair Paine