Now that the Presidential Election is over, did the results surprise you? Are you glad that the one whom you have voted for will soon be sworn in as our next President? Or are you wondering if fellow Singaporeans have made a mistake preferring one “Tan” over the other?
Regardless of what we think of the recent results, let us go to the Bible and learn about what God has to say to us.
1) It is God who has made this man the President of Singapore
“Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God” Romans 13:1
In this passage as well as others such as Daniel 4:32, we are told that it is God who establishes all authorities. Indeed, God is actively sovereign in the raising up and bringing down of every government throughout the history of mankind. In our context of democracy, it means that God is sovereign over the ballot box.
2) It is God who calls Christians to submission and prayer
The Apostle Paul reminds us that the government is “God’s servant to do you good” (Rom 13:4). Indeed, God has entrusted them with the task of caring for the citizens, upholding justice and maintaining peace (Rom 13:3-5). When Christians learn to submit to the authorities, we can be said to be doing so out of national interest since this will enable the latter to carry out their responsibilities in governing the nation.
What may surprise us is that when Paul gave those instructions to the churches, the Roman authorities during his time were not exactly the most god-fearing despite their plethora of deities. In fact, Nero who was like their Roman President was known to be a bloodthirsty tyrant. He was the ruler who invented this cruel sport of feeding Christians -who refused to compromise on their faith- to lions in the Coliseum. Perhaps at this point you may be wondering, “How can Paul possibly urge the Christians to submit to such authorities? Was he closely linked to the establishment?”
Here, 1 Timothy 2:1-4 also offer us some clues. From this passage, we learn that our submission and prayers for the authorities is also out of Gospel interest. You see, Paul was encouraging Christians to pray for all those in authority because he understood that not only will it benefit the believers, it will also help advance the Gospel. It was not so much of the establishment that Paul was interested in. Rather, Paul was eager to see many more people coming to know Jesus Christ and glorifying God’s name. Undoubtedly, just as we have experienced here in Singapore and seen it in other countries, the presence of a strong and just government does facilitate the spread of the Gospel.
Finally, the apostle Peter puts it well when he says “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men” (1 Peter 2:13). We submit to the government ultimately out of submission to God, because God appointed them. Admittedly, there could be times when we are submitting through gritted teeth since we would have different convictions about certain matters. Nevertheless, if Christians are to live a life of submission to God, then we must learn to submit to the government of the day.
However, because God is our ultimate authority, there might be occasions when it is appropriate to disobey a government if obeying it would result in disobedience to God. We see some biblical precedents for this in the examples of the midwives (Exodus 1), Daniel (Daniel 3) and the apostles (Acts 5).
Thankfully, when we consider our government’s track record, there is much we can be grateful for. For one, Christians have not been cornered into any situation where we need to disobey God in order to obey the authorities. It is also heartening to hear the government acknowledging that there is room for improvement and changes. Nonetheless, there are some things we cannot expect the government to do. For example, they can outlaw racism but only the Gospel can deal with xenophobia. The government can subsidise the poor but only the Gospel can make our hearts generous and compassionate.
Evidently, there are many challenges ahead of Singapore. And as we welcome our new President, let us continue to pray that together with Parliament, they will serve the people well and lead the nation with moral courage and wisdom. Majulah Singapura!
August 28, 2011