A regular article written by Phillip Jensen in his role as Dean of Sydney at St Andrew's Cathedral.
3rd October 2004
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Good government is one of the privileges of Australia. It is taken for granted. Though we are very critical and sceptical of our leaders’ abilities and integrity.
Few of the world’s nations have had the privilege of such safety for Leaders of the Opposition as Australia. The transfer of power from one person or party to another has been practiced with very few hiccups and without any violence.
We come now to another Federal Election, and it is appropriate for us to prayerfully pause and consider the role of Government from a Christian perspective.
Government is appointed by God. (Romans 13). Irrespective of the human means of the appointment, it is God who rules over all. Cyrus the violent pagan Persian King who did not acknowledge God was still doing God’s work (Isaiah 45).
The fundamental role of Government is justice. Governors are sent by God “to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good”. Romans 13 describes the ruler’s punitive action, as “he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer”. Christians are not to take vengeance for vengeance is mine says the Lord. But God appoints government to do some of his work of retribution.
So Christians are to submit themselves to their Government - even to those that oppose God
Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it is to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 1 Peter 2:13-14
Yet this is not to give to governments absolute power. Rulers are answerable to God for their actions and will be held accountable for their injustice. They are not above the law but are to administer the law. They are not to pervert the rights of the afflicted but are to speak up for the weak and defenceless (Proverbs 31).
Furthermore there can come a point in time when, recognising the God given authority, a person will have to obey God rather than human government.