This sermon was preached on Public Servants Day at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Cherry Log, Georgia on July 21, 2013 by Pastor Paul Mims.
A young man, Edward Snowden, has been in the news of late because he used his position at the National Security Administration to gather state secrets to betray his country. He has been holding out in the Moscow Airport waiting for a country that will give him acceptance. He thinks that he is being a patriot to correct what he believes to be wrong with America. He is using his personal freedom and is appealing to countries that suppress human freedom. He has very sensitive documents detailing how the National Security Agency operates that would allow someone who reads them to evade or even duplicate NSA surveillance. Is that being a patriot?
This situation poses lots of questions for the Christian citizen who is biblically obligated to be in submission to the authority of government such as: “Do I have to give my approval to what my government does?” “What are the limits of my loyalty?” “Am I to be loyal against my beliefs” “What takes precedence over my convictions?” “How am I to take seriously my responsibilities of citizenship?” These matters do not have an easy solution, but the Scriptures give us a guideline to follow as Christian citizens.
I. THE AUTHORITY OF GOVERNMENT IS GOD’S ARRANGEMENT. “The authorities that exist have been established by God.” (Romans 13:1).
We acknowledge today that the public servants in Gilmer and Fannin Counties are in a divinely appointed position in law enforcement, public safety, fire protection, and county governments. God is the author of civil government. “There is no authority except that which God has established” (13:1).
These are profound statements when you consider the background against which the Apostle Paul made them. The Christians were under persecution and were considered heretics by the Jewish Temple Authorities. The Jews were very rebellious toward the Roman government officials who were occupying their country. There was a Jewish group known as the Zealots who said that there is no king but God – no taxes were to be paid to any power but God. They were committed to murder and assassination to undo any civil government. They were known as “dagger bearers” and were fanatical in their use of terrorism toward the Roman government. They even attacked their own fellow Jews who submitted to the Roman authorities. They wrecked their houses, burned their crops and killed the families of those who paid tribute to the Roman government.
Paul is writing to make it known that Christianity is not like that brand of Judaism. Israel, in their formative years had lived under a Theocracy where they were obligated only to God. But that phase of their development passed and they were now citizens of a larger community in which they had to live. The same is true of us. Our first allegiance is to God, but the church is made up of local citizens who are also members of a local society. Paul is saying that we have to be members of both and that God has established both.
He said, “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone, for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in are godliness and holiness. This is good and pleases God our Savior who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (I Timothy 2:1-4).
In Titus 3:1-2, Paul admonishes, “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate and to show true humility toward all men.”
The Apostle Peter taught in I Peter 2:13-17: “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong, and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.”
The early Christian writers encouraged Christians to be good citizens. Justin Martyr said, (Apology 1:17) “Everywhere, we, more readily that all men, endeavor to pay to those appointed by you the taxes, both ordinary and extraordinary, as we have been taught by Jesus. We worship only God, but in other things we will gladly serve you, acknowledging you as kings and rulers of men, and praying that, with your kingly power, you may be found to possess sound judgments.”
Tertullian wrote (Apology 30) “We offer prayer for the safety of our princes to the eternal, the true, the living God, whose favor, beyond all other things, they must themselves desire…Without ceasing for all our emperors we offer prayer. We pray for life prolonged, for security to the empire, for protection for the imperial house, for brave armies, a faithful senate, a virtuous people, the world at rest- whatever, as man or Caesar, an emperor would wish. Caesar is more ours than yours because our God appointed him.”
These were the views of the early Christians toward governments that were not really favorable to them. But they saw God’s providence as in control of the governments. God would rule in the church and over the civil authorities. So the place that our public servants occupy is by divine appointment. It is all the better when we have Christians in civil government.
II. GOD ARRANGED CIVIL GOVERNMENT TO KEEP THE WORLD FROM CHAOS.
You can imagine what Gilmer and Fannin counties would be like if there was no local authorities. When our church caught on fire two years ago what would we have done if there had been no men who give their lives to protect us from uncontrolled fire? When our security system goes off and tells us of a possible break-in what would we do if we have no Sheriffs to check it out? When there is a drunk driver out on 515 who is speeding and rams into others – what would we do if we did not have the State Patrol to intervene? When there are house break-ins or home invasions think how helpless we would be without the police to pursue and arrest the criminals. What would we do without the justice system through the courts to punish the wrongdoers? Think of all the services that our counties provide for us to make life good for the citizens. We do appreciate and owe a debt of gratitude for our public servants. Without them life here would be chaos. In Gilmer County the population is about 28,000 and Fannin County is about 24,000. The means that 52,000 people plus our seasonal visitors who increase the population considerably, need our public servants to keep things from spiraling into chaos.
III. WHAT DO WE OWE OUR PUBLIC SERVANTS?
First, we owe them our prayers. “Dear Lord, Please protect our protectors, our human guarding angels, who, in the heat of the day and the dark of night, regularly in harm’s way, guard us against dangers, and stand ready in every catastrophe and emergency to offer life-guarding safety and life-saving assistance.
Police and fire personnel, nurses and doctors, guards, emergency medical technicians, please support them all with Your strength and Your mercy!
Let no evil befall them, as they put their lives on the line day after day, night after night, to keep us from peril, and, yes from death. I pray for all who stand ready to serve, live our lives, day and night,
in all weathers and in the most strenuous and dangerous situations. Please be with them when they stand guard, patrol, and negotiate traffic at high speeds, and when they operate at the side
of busy highways, in burning buildings, and when they are under attack from violent, drugged or erratic individuals, prisoners, rioters and criminal gangs. Keep them safe, Lord. Amen. (Prayer by Don Murphy).
We owe our public servants our support. They are not our enemies although you may think so when you see that flashing blue light come up behind you. These people deal with the baser elements of human life and hear very little positive affirmations that they need. We often say to our troops, “Thank you for your service,” and we ought to say it to our firemen and law enforcement servants. We also should support a livable wage for these servants so that they would not have to work two jobs to make ends meet.
Terry Schafer, a young wife, lived with her husband in the small city of Moline, Illinois. She had a special gift she wanted to give to her husband for Christmas but was afraid that they would not be able to afford it. She started shopping for it in September, knowing it was a specialized piece of equipment and not every store would sell it. She finally found it — and to her dismay it was way beyond their budget. But she came up the idea of laying it away and making payments to the storekeeper. She pitched her idea to the store manager. The business man sympathized with her situation and said, “Since your husband is a policeman, I doubt that you’re going to take advantage of me. Why don’t you give your first payment today — and I’ll let you take the gift home. Make sure you make the other payments and pay it off before Christmas.” She agreed.
The only problem was she was one of those people who couldn’t keep a secret. She couldn’t wait till Christmas to give the gift to her husband. That September night she stood there beaming with a wrapped present on the table of their small home. She said Merry Christmas and gave her husband a peck on the cheek.
Neither one of them realized at that moment how significant that gift would end up being. In fact in the not-to-distant future it would mean the difference between life and death for her husband.
On Oct. 1 of that same year Patrolman David Schafer was working the night shift and got a call on his police radio. A drugstore robbery was in process. Racing to the scene he arrived just in time to observe the suspect getting into his car, starting the engine and speeding away. Quickly David switched on his siren and began the pursuit. Three blocks later the getaway car suddenly pulled over the side of the road and stopped. The suspect was still behind the wheel of his car as David cautiously approached. He got about three feet from the window when the suspect fired an automatic pistol sending a .45 caliber slug into David’s abdomen.
7:00 AM the next morning — Terry answered the door of their home to face a police officer telling her that her husband had been shot trying to apprehend a robbery suspect. As he detailed the news, he said he had bad news and good news. As she listened, she was glad that she didn’t wait till Christmas to give her husband the gift. David had been shot point blank with a 45 caliber pistol and survived. She was very glad the shopkeeper had let her take that gift home that day. The gift Terry had purchased for her husband was a bullet proof vest — and it had saved his life. He was in the hospital with deep bruises to his chest, not a bullet wound. She had given her husband the gift of life. (Story By Tim Vamosi).
Everyone needs a spiritual bullet-proof vest. In closing, I would like to tell you how you can get a spiritual bullet proof vest around your heart that evil cannot penetrate. When Jesus comes into our hearts he has the ability to deflect the 45 caliber bullets of Satan who wants to inject evil into our hearts and destroy our lives. You can have this divine and eternal protection if you will repent of your sin and turn to Christ as your Lord and Savior.
The Hymn expresses it like this:
“Walking in sunlight all of my journey; over the mountains, thro’ the deep vale; Jesus has said, I’ll never forsake thee, Promise divine that never can fail.” (Henry Zelley).
PRAISE BE TO HIS NAME