In our day and age where the State has buried its flagpole deep into the ground, claiming that it should be worshiped at all times, it is sometimes difficult to recognize its actions as being exactly the same as the actions of a common thief or a serial killer. Indeed, if there is any in society that could be considered “serial” in its criminal activity, surely it is the State and those that work on its behalf. The great temptation today is for us to separate the actions of the State from those in the “private” sector. But we must realize that the commandments that no individual should murder, bear false witness, or steal apply to every person, not only those who are not on the public payroll. The command to “love your neighbor as yourself” is nowhere said to apply only to those not in government. Is not every person under the same ethical standards of God?
Once we break free from this mindset of political democracy, this idea that wrongful actions become legitimate if backed by majority vote, we are free to recognize that to oppose the State is to more consistently oppose evil in the world. Far too many of us claim that we oppose the existence of evil and unethical activity, and yet we turn a blind eye to the State and all that it has done to expand its power and exercise its dominion over its subjects. But a realization of the nature of the State is liberating. No longer do we have to justify a set of actions done by a gang simply because they call themselves the government.
But viewing the State and earthly authorities in this way can seem concerning for the Christian. For does not Paul ask us to “let every soul be subject unto the higher powers” and does not Peter call us to “submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake?” And what about Paul’s call for Titus to “Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities?” The problem, it may seem for those who have never deeply considered these things is that they have assumed, no doubt because of the influence of Statist propaganda in the United States, is that they have immediately assumed that to be submissive and to subject themselves to the authority to leaders in society means to approve of all their actions. This is the tendency toward which our minds move. We say things like, I disagree with this insane tax rate or perhaps, I disagree with the President on his war policy. And then the answer is, well, Romans 13 says to submit.
But to go even deeper, if we hold that the very existence of the State relies on the State acting in ways that would otherwise be considered grotesque crimes, we can only conclude that to pursue a more ethical scenario would be to advocate for the elimination of the State. And yet it is true that Paul writes in Romans 13 that God has appointed these authorities (he has appointed everything that exists –both good and evil). And so therefore it would seem that we should not dare advocate the elimination (or even the limitation!) of the State. Must we conclude that “activism” (lacking a better word) is therefore wrong if it is activism against the actions of the State?
Of course not. Not only have we rightly concluded that the actions of the State are no different than the same actions done outside of the State, but we can, based on this principle, conclude that the existence of the evils of Statism are no different than the evils that lie outside of the State. And does not Paul in Romans 12 call us to “abhor what is evil?” So then to abhor theft is to abhor it when done by the State and when done by the individual. Indeed, when it comes to the sins of this world, we ought to show no distinction regarding which sector in which sinful actions are done. “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” (2 Tim 4:2). “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” (Eph 5:11). When evil is found, we ought to oppose it and be vocal against it. Whether murder, rape, or mass extortion.
Therefore, we have learned that to submit to authorities in no way means that we approve their deeds. And further we should not be silent when there is a systematic criminality within society. We should long for the eradication of all evil! And evil surely exists in the private and the public sectors of society! When the State takes up another round of worldwide domination and murder in the name of national security, it is good to make it known that the State is not just in this action. And also when the State initiates its coercive thievery in the name of “increasing revenue,” it is good to vocalize the fact that this action is akin to –no, it is! –robbery. And when we get physically slapped in the face without deserving it, should we conclude that this slap was just? No.
And yet, Christ has told us to turn the other cheek. The State steals from us via income tax, sales tax, inheritance tax, capital gains tax, property tax, corporate tax, payroll taxes, expatriation taxes, and licence fees, and yet, let us turn the other cheek. The evil is the same. And so is our response.
Can we long for the eradication of evil? Yes. Let us pray for it.
Can we still humbly turn the other cheek? Yes. Let us pray for strength.
So therefore, it is possible, and even commanded, that we make it known that State action is wrong and at the same time subject ourselves to earthly authority. When Christians use Romans 13 to counter our belief that the State should be eradicated, we must demonstrate this balance to them. Because, while we do oppose the wrongful nature of the State, we will humbly submit to its authority. Even Jesus, who has true authority over the State, called out evil consistently and wherever he saw it, and yet submitted to the horrors of State torture and crucifixion. He called out the religious leaders for their wrongdoings throughout his ministry and yet subjected himself to them when they came with soldiers to arrest him. Must we not be like Christ? This is quite honestly the Ron Paul libertarian method of spreading the message, not via force and violent revolution, but rather, through education and the peaceful exchange of ideas.
The State is not great. But our sovereign God who tells us to pay taxes and turn the other cheek is indeed the very definition of great. All praise and glory to His wondrous name.