"Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed because of truth." — (Psalm 60:4)
"Lift ye up a banner upon the high mountain, exalt the voice unto them." — (Isaiah 13:2)
Devoted To The Defense Of The Church Against All Errors And Innovations
Vol.IV No.XI Pg.4-5
June 1942

"The Christian And The Government"

Cled E. Wallace

A correction will serve to exonerate me from the charge of accepting an honor that belongs to another. Some seem to be under the impression that I wrote a recent article in the Bible Banner which deals with the relation of Christians to the government. Thanks for the compliment, but that fine piece of work is to be charged up to the editor. Frankly, he beat me to it, for I had about all I could stand of the sort of talk that caused him to print the article, without saying something about it. It was a better job than I could have done. The position in that article is both scriptural and sensible and will stand up under the attacks that are sure to be made upon it.

The need for such an article is shown by a typical example of loose writing copied from a recent issue of a paper devoted to "sound doctrine." Ponder this one carefully:

"A nation has as much right to command Christians to steal, commit adultery, get drunk or any other evil thing, as it does to command them to kill. Vengeance belongeth to God. (Rom. 12:19.) "Thou shalt not kill." The nations or kingdoms of the world belong to Satan. (Matt. 4:1-11.) All murderers shall go into the lake of fire."

Our nation does not command Christians, or anybody else, to steal, commit adultery, get drunk or commit murder. On the other hand, it has some rather severe laws relating to such evil practices. It is quite lenient toward "conscientious objectors" in time of war, and is so tolerant that it protects the life and liberties of misguided brethren who abuse that liberty by proclaiming from the housetops that the nation was fathered by the devil and that its armed forces are all actual or potential murderers and headed for "the lake of fire." I suppose we should be quite thankful to the devil in this present crisis for standing between us and the totalitarian racketeers who would rob us of our right to worship God and say about anything we please about everything and everybody! He has really shown us a favor in raising up at this time a Winston Churchill, a Franklin Roosevelt and a Douglas MacArthur to command his armed forces of murder! If I felt as this brother does, which I am thankful I do not, I would be decent enough under the circumstances, to keep my mouth shut until the crisis is over. The government is good enough to respect his "conscientious objections" and he should be gracious enough to refrain from calling it a vassal of the devil and its armed forces a gang of murderers, at least while it is fighting for its life.

The brother declares that "the nations or kingdoms of the world belong to Satan." Paul says: "Let every soul be in subjection to the higher powers: for there is no power but of God; and the powers that be are ordained of God." (Rom. 13:1,2.) Seriously, did Paul command Christians to "be in subjection to the" devil? "For they are ministers of God's service, attending continually upon this very thing." (Verse 6.) What thing? "For he is a minister of God, an avenger for wrath to him that doeth evil." No, we are not working for Satan, when we are supporting the government.

"Thou shalt not kill." This command was given to the new born nation of Israel. Did that nation "belong to Satan"? The laws of that nation came from God through Moses. They provided for law enforcement, capital punishment and the prosecution of war. And such activities were not murder, even if they did involve the taking of human life. But we are not under that law! True, and the brother went to the wrong place for his text. Under the circumstances it is revealing!

Humanly speaking, before me is the framed picture of my son, in a uniform of the armed forces of the United States. He is both a Christian and a loyal citizen of his government. While he is defending my right to live as a free man, I can defend him against the charge of murder. While we respect the consciences of those who are unwilling to bear arms on religious grounds, we resent the recklessness with which some of them employ their tongues and their pens. Let them "be in subjection to the higher powers" more quietly, pay taxes, buy bonds, help sharpen the sword and stop yelling bloody murder at those who use it. The martyr complex shows up in much that they say. Some of them seem to be yearning for prison, death and fiery furnaces.

"The apostles resisted the powers of the world and went to prison and to death. Daniel and the Hebrew children resisted; the powers of the world and went to the lion's den and the fiery furnace. If we follow Christ, Paul and others, we will not have/ murder in our hearts."

This is a bad mixture of irrelevant orating and begging of the question. Who is advocating murder and hate? When a criminal moved by hate commits murder, it is a screwy philosophy that concludes that the judge who sentences him and the officer who executes him, are also haters and murderers. Then when a free nation must go to war in its own defense against international marauders, then its armed forces, from the Commander-in-Chief on down, become criminals if they happen to hurt anybody! Ugh! Just count me out of such twisted reasoning. I can't take it. And don't come around telling me the Bible teaches it! It does not.

According to the idea some brethren have about government belonging to Satan, it would be a great thing for Hitler and the Nazis if the majority of our people and other free peoples were Christians of the "conscientious objector" kind. He could just come in and take charge without serious opposition. Some brethren who have been arguing that the days of miracles are over would probably contend that in such a case the Lord would take us all out of the fiery furnace like he did the Hebrew children. And if we could convert even one whole county, it would destroy all civil government unless we imported some friendly sinners to take charge. Civil government is of the devil, you know, and Christians can have nothing to do with it! Otherwise some unfriendly sinners would invite themselves in to take charge and some agent of the devil would have to call out the National Guard to protect us. Come to think of it, maybe we had better not make too many Christians until this war has been won! Personally, I think our Uncle Samuel is being pretty nice to Jehovah's Witnesses and some of our brethren. Satan doesn't seem to have as strong a hold on him as he does on some of the other "nations" that "belong to" him. Of course, it would not do for Uncle Sam to become a Christian, for then he would not be Uncle Sam! And it would be mighty hard to find anybody to take his place. I'd prefer that he remain as he is rather than go into a disappearing act that would give us Hitler and his yellow "Arians."

Some entertain the idea that if all were Christians there would be no need for civil government. It has no basis in fact. There would still be the need of the state to be kept separate from the church. Functions of the state are not to be confused with those of the church. Both are ordained of God.

The Doctrine Of Non-Resistance

The nation is at war against organized and militarized bandits who propose to conquer the world and enslave all free peoples. They would destroy our government and permanently black out all our institutions of civil liberty. This crisis, the most serious that the nation has ever faced, challenges Christians to do some sober thinking and to act with becoming wisdom. Many are perplexed and dismayed and we may expect some ill-advised things to be said and done. My friend and beloved brother, R. L. Whiteside, has expressed a timely warning in a late issue of the Gospel Advocate:

"In a time like this Christians, as well as others, are liable to become excited and say things that they may later regret. Some years ago I heard a prominent preacher say that it would be a great punishment to him to be compelled to sit and listen to someone read some sermons he himself preached during the other World War. You can save yourself such trial by maintaining a sober mind. Be sober-minded enough to realize that no one person, not even you, can lay claim to having all wisdom. Quoting a passage of Scripture is of no real value to a cause unless it is in point."

Loyalty to the word of God must be the watch-word of a genuine Christian at all times. That principle cannot be interned "for the duration" because the most devastating war of all history is raging. There should be no compromise of the principle that a Christian's loyalty to God comes before, and takes precedence of, his loyalty to his government even in time of war. "We must obey God, rather than men." I take it that this is common ground among us.

Jesus taught that Christians should be humble, meek, lovers of peace, pure in heart, and be ready and willing to suffer persecution for righteousness' sake. They must be willing to bear even a repetition of personal intrusions and injuries and entertain the disposition to go even beyond certain limits to return good for evil. He strictly forbids revengeful retaliation for personal injuries. He set the example and demands that we follow in His steps. It does violence to the teaching of Jesus in this regard if we conclude that there should be no law to function for the suppression and punishment of crime. There are lawless men in society who must be controlled by force. Jesus was not delivering a discourse directed against the proper functions and due processes of law and government. Some years ago, I heard a prominent preacher among us say in a sermon that "patriotism is a crime." It simply isn't true and I felt ashamed of him. Another said: "All war is wrong and sinful, regardless of who wages it or why." It is sinful then, for a police force to function in protecting our homes against robbery and insure us protection in property and life. The officer of the law who intervenes to save a pure woman from a rapist and has to use physical force in so doing, is sinning against God! I do not believe it and Jesus did not teach it. Jesus Christ never taught anything to aid a criminal. The government is ordained of God and bears the sword for this very purpose, to enforce law for the common good, suppress and punish crime, and assuredly has the right to defend itself against invasion and pillage by rapacious marauders. Such function of government is an "ordinance of God." What good would law be without its penalties and what could a government do, civil government, without police and military forces to back it up and enforce it? We need to do a little clear thinking along here, sober, humble thinking. And it ought to be done with the desire to determine in perilous times how to be loyal to God and perform our duties as citizens, not to act smart and try to down somebody in an argument. This is no time for childishness. There may be criminals in the offices and armed forces of our government, but the performance of their sworn duties does not make them such. I thank God that we have an Army and Navy at this time. Quoting the Sermon on the Mount would not stop Hitler at a time like this, and I say reverently that it was not given for that purpose. There is another way ordained of God to get that job done. Horrible as the fact is, tanks and guns and airplanes are part of that plan and the men who build them and the ones who use them are using physical force directed at the same end. That fact is obvious. The industrial power of the whole nation is geared for war. Combatants and non-combatants alike are working for the same thing, straining their efforts to win the war and win the peace. We are all

mixed up in it one way or another. The man in uniform who fires the guns is not the only fighter in this fracas. Our most belligerent "conscientious objectors" who stand off at a safe distance and quote scriptures that do not apply to this situation, are hoping and praying that the current threat to our liberties may be crushed by our armed forces. The Axis powers would greatly appreciate it, if our government would adopt their theory of all out non-resistance.

But Jesus said: "Resist not him that is evil." Take a look at the context and scope of Jesus' teaching. It is a law against the individual seeking and taking personal vengeance for the wrongs done him. It is not designed to allow a hoodlum to kidnap a child, or outrage a woman without interference by anybody who can stop it, even if he has to use a club or a gun. I take it that even most preachers would act better in an emergency than some of them talk and write.

"Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away." Is it to be taken literally and without restriction? Keep the context in mind. I asked an all-out non-resister, a friend of mine, about this giving and lending to just anybody who wanted to take him for a "touch" and he said: "It is conditional." Exactly. A stranger, or a transient, would have about as good a chance of getting a loan from a soldier as he would from a "conscientious objector." As a matter of fact this part of the teaching of Jesus is not likely to be overdone by anybody. Even "conscientious objectors" know how to properly qualify it.

"And if any man would go to law with thee, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also." Should a devout and unlimited non-resister return to his home and find that in his absence an intruder had unlawfully taken possession, he must not appeal to the law, he must just bow out and let the intruder keep it because he has it, or just kneel in prayer. Did Jesus teach it? No, and it isn't the way "non-resisters" act either. They are more practical than their doctrine. Christianity does not antagonize proper law enforcement. Remember that law enforcement involves the use of physical resistance to the lawless. Paul asked for military interference to rescue him from a plot of assassination and got it. He appealed to Caesar and that appeal was to all the power of the government of which he was a citizen, both civil and military. He did not violate the teaching of Jesus on the question of non-resistance. Some have simply carried that doctrine a lot farther than Jesus did. J. W. McGarvey made some cogent observations along this line:

"This command which enjoins non-resistance, like most of the other precepts of this sermon, does not demand of us absolute, unqualified passivity at all times and under all circumstances. In fact, we may say generally of the whole sermon on the mount that it is not a code for slaves, but an assertion of principles which are to be interpreted and applied by the children of freedom. We are to submit to evil for principle's sake and to accomplish spiritual victories, and not in the abject, servile spirit as blind followers of a harsh and exacting law. On the contrary, taking the principle, we judge when and how to apply it as best we can. Absolute non-resistance may so far encourage crime as to become a sin... The example given, a slap in the face, has been regarded as a gross insult in all ages, but it is not an assault which imperils life... Self-preservation is a law of God giving right which, under most circumstances, a Christian can claim. He may resist the robber, the assassin and all men of that ilk, and may protect his person and his possessions against the assaults of the violent and lawless. But when the honor of Christ and the salvation of man demands it, he should observe this commandment even unto the very letter... A man may strive for self-protection when life is threatened without any spirit of revenge."

The law of Moses said "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth." The new law says, "Resist not him that is evil." "Vengeance is mine, I will repay." It is a law against the individual wreaking personal vengeance for the wrongs done him. Even our own government has some laws to that effect.