1. THE CHRISTIAN AND THE STATE
a. What is to be the attitude of God’s people toward civil government? Romans 13:1–4; 1 Peter 2:13, 14, 17; Titus 3:1. What are we to do when God’s law is set aside by rulers of this world? Acts 4:19.
“I saw that it is our duty in every case to obey the laws of our land, unless they conflict with the higher law which God spoke with an audible voice from Sinai, and afterward engraved on stone with His own finger.”—Testimonies, vol. 1, p. 361.
b. What would be the condition of our society if it were brought under the restraining power of God’s law? Isaiah 48:18; 32:17.
“In conformity to the divine requirements there is a transforming power that brings peace and good will among men. If the teachings of God’s word were made the controlling influence in the life of every man and woman, if mind and heart were brought under its restraining power, the evils that now exist in national and in social life would find no place.”—Prophets and Kings, p. 192.
2. BEING A PART OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD
a. Although we are citizens here on earth and subject to rulers as ordained by God, where is our primary citizenship? Philippians 3:20. What does Jesus say about His kingdom? John 18:36; Luke 17:21.
“The kingdom of God begins in the heart.”—The Desire of Ages, p. 506.
b. How are we as Christians to live out the principles of God’s kingdom while here on earth? John 3:5; 1:12, 13; Mark 1:14, 15.
“Not by the decisions of courts or councils or legislative assemblies, not by the patronage of worldly great men, is the kingdom of Christ established, but by the implanting of Christ’s nature in humanity through the work of the Holy Spirit. ‘As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.’ John 1:12, 13. Here is the only power that can work the uplifting of mankind. And the human agency for the accomplishment of this work is the teaching and practicing of the word of God.”—Ibid., pp.509, 510.
c. What else do we know about the nature of God’s kingdom? Psalm 145:13; 2 Peter 1:11. How did this affect the way Jesus dealt with earthly government?
“The government under which Jesus lived was corrupt and oppressive; on every hand were crying abuses,—extortion, intolerance, and grinding cruelty. Yet the Saviour attempted no civil reforms. He attacked no national abuses, nor condemned the national enemies. He did not interfere with the authority or administration of those in power. He who was our example kept aloof from earthly governments. Not because He was indifferent to the woes of men, but because the remedy did not lie in merely human and external measures. To be efficient, the cure must reach men individually, and must regenerate the heart.”—Ibid., p.509.
3. THE CHRISTIAN, A MODEL CITIZEN
a. Which words of Jesus are sometimes misinterpreted as referring to swearing under oath? Matthew 5:34–37. To what, then, is Jesus actually referring?
“I saw that the words of our Lord, ‘Swear not at all,’ do not touch the judicial oath. ‘Let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.’ This refers to common conversation. Some exaggerate in their language. Some swear by their own life; others swear by their head—as sure as they live; as sure as they have a head. Some take heaven and earth to witness that such things are so. Some hope that God will strike them out of existence if what they are saying is not true. It is this kind of common swearing against which Jesus warns His disciples. . . .
“I was shown that when it is actually necessary, and they are called upon to testify in a lawful manner, it is no violation of God’s word for His children to solemnly take God to witness that what they say is the truth, and nothing but the truth.”—Testimonies, vol. 1, pp. 201, 202.
b. What should be our attitude towards participation in politics? Why? 1 Timothy 2:1–3; Hebrews 11:13. Why can’t we vote for political parties?
“The Lord would have His people bury political questions. On these themes silence is eloquence. . . . We cannot with safety vote for political parties; for we do not know whom we are voting for. We cannot with safety take part in any political schemes.”—Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 475.
c. Why should we pay taxes? Matthew 22:21; Romans 13:7.
“Holding in His hand the Roman coin, upon which were stamped the name and image of Caesar, [Christ] declared that since they were living under the protection of the Roman power, they should render to that power the support it claimed, so long as this did not conflict with a higher duty. But while peaceably subject to the laws of the land, they should at all times give their first allegiance to God.”—The Desire of Ages, p. 602.
4. PEACEFUL, LAW-ABIDING CITIZENS
a. To what extent should we foster peace with others? Matthew 5:9; Romans 12:18.
“It is not wise to find fault continually with what is done by the rulers of government. It is not our work to attack individuals or institutions.
. . . Our work is to prepare a people to stand in the great day of God. . . .
“We should weed out from our writings and utterances every expression that, taken by itself, could be so misrepresented as to make it appear antagonistic to law and order. Everything should be carefully considered, lest we place ourselves on record as encouraging disloyalty to our country and its laws. We are not required to defy authorities. There will come a time when, because of our advocacy of Bible truth, we shall be treated as traitors; but let not this time be hastened by unadvised movements that stir up animosity and strife.”—Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 394.
b. In what ways can Christ’s followers promote peace? Romans 12:19–21; 1 Peter 3:8–11. How should our demeanor be toward our brethren and sisters? Matthew 7:12.
“Cherish a supreme reverence for justice and truth, and a hatred for all cruelty and oppression. Do unto others as you would wish them to do to you. God forbids you to favor self, to the disadvantage of another.”—The SDA Bible Commentary [E. G. White Comments], vol. 7, p. 942.
c. Why else then do we not go to war? John 18:36; Matthew 26:51, 52; Luke 9:56. What was the position given to the Lord’s messenger regarding the U.S. Civil War?
“I was shown that God’s people, who are His peculiar treasure, cannot engage in this perplexing war, for it is opposed to every principle of their faith. In the army they cannot obey the truth and at the same time obey the requirements of their officers. There would be a continual violation of conscience. Worldly men are governed by worldly principles. They can appreciate no other. Worldly policy and public opinion comprise the principle of action that governs them. . . . But God’s people cannot be governed by these motives.”—Testimonies, vol. 1, p. 361.
5. HOW TO MEET INJUSTICE
a. How should we deal with those who may treat us unfairly, even in the government? Romans 12:19; Colossians 4:6; Ephesians 4:29.
“Let God have the matter of condemning authorities and governments wholly in His own keeping. In meekness and love let us as faithful sentinels defend the principles of truth as it is in Jesus.”—Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 397.
“When Christ and heaven are the theme of contemplation, the conversation will give evidence of the fact. The speech will be seasoned with grace, and the speaker will show that he has been obtaining an education in the school of the divine Teacher.”—Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, p. 443.
“Kind words are as dew and gentle showers to the soul.”—Gospel Workers, p. 122.
b. How should we follow Jesus’ example in serving others when faced with laws calling for us to worship on Sunday? Acts 10:38.
“When we devote Sunday to missionary work, the whip will be taken out of the hands of the arbitrary zealots who would be well pleased to humiliate Seventh-day Adventists. When they see that we employ ourselves on Sunday in visiting the people and opening the Scriptures to them, they will know that it is useless for them to try to hinder our work by making Sunday laws.”—Testimonies, vol. 9, pp. 232, 233.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. What is our duty in regards to the laws of our land?
2. Why did Jesus keep aloof from worldly governments?
3. For what should we refrain from voting—and why?
4. Why shouldn’t we criticize the rulers of government?
5. How can we witness in a positive way through our speech? How is this too often done in a negative way?