A Christian’s Governing Authority

“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.” Romans 13:1-2.

Christians are called to be law-abiding citizens and to obey the governments that God choses to put above us. In a past article, I introduced the concept of legal and natural rights that might permit a group of persons or states to secede from an abusive government. But who are the governmental authorities to whom a Christian owes allegiance per the Word of God to determine if they can participate in a secession. In regard to the United States Constitution the primary sovereign is a citizen’s State. The Tenth Amendment to the Constitution clearly lays out the supreme sovereign under our form of government – “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” The Federal Government only has the limited authority (powers) given to it in the Constitution. All other authority is reserved to the States or the people, the ultimate Sovereign. Only a Sovereign could reserve power unto itself as the States do in the Tenth Amendment. The fact that, at times, the Federal Government has illegally taken powers far beyond granted to it by the Constitution does not invalidate the supreme law of the land (the Constitution) that a Christian is mandated to live by.

The States were not created by the Federal Government but the Federal Government was created by the States and the States clearly have the authority to dissolve the United States Government as currently constituted by succeeding from it when it no longer serves its interests. Indeed, three States said as much when they agreed to the Constitution and almost certainly all of the States felt they had that power or they would have never approved the Constitution and given up their sovereignty. There would need to be sufficient grievances against the United States government to merit such a secession and it would not be wise to do so except in an extreme situation. However, for a Christian, living under the United States Constitution, his state would be the sovereign that he was required by the Word of God to ultimately obey and the Federal Government exercising the limited powers granted to it by the States under the Constitution. Therefore, in regard to secession, if a Christian’s state lawfully succeeds from the Union, he would be required to follow it out of the Union and is free to advocate for secession of his state from the Union if he feels, after prayerful consideration, it is justified.

Beyond Constitutional/legal authority, there is the natural law, discussed in a previous article, and on which our right to secede from England that established our country was founded, that can justify secession. The natural law, while valid as how could one think a people could be imprisoned within a country or union of states no matter how abusive a government became, is problematic for a Christian. God calls us to obey both good and bad governments, although not participate in any wickedness ourselves. Thus, the Scriptures limit our ability to separate from the government God has put over us via a natural law argument. I do believe there are situations where a group of people or states are so abused by the government that they might Scripturally appeal to the natural rights given by God, similar to those outlined in the Declaration of Independence, to chose to seceed and form their own government but this would likely be a rare situation and a difficult situation to define. Fortunately, we do not have that problem in the United States as we have a Constitution that makes each State sovereign over determining its continuance in the Union. This gives many potential opportunities for a Christian to find a State to join in secession if the Federal Government becomes abusive or unsatisfactory and he may only have to advocate for his State to succeed to remedy the abuses rather than have the difficult task to effect change throughout the entire Country.

In summary, a Christian has to obey the government that God puts above them, even one that is not wise or good. To facilitate this obedience a Christian must ascertain what governmental entity is his ultimate sovereign. Thankfully, we have a Constitution that makes that sovereign clear, which is the State you reside in. If your state succeeds a Christian should follow it into secession and it is allowed for a Christian to argue for a state’s secession if circumstances become intolerable. If a Christian does not support secession they should find another state that is not seceding and move to it. Clearly, the Federal Government has no voice in the matter being just a creation of the States itself, except to perhaps effect change in its behavior to mollify the offended States/people.

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