From "The Augsburg Confession," Article Sixteen
1 It is taught among us that all government in the world and all established rule and laws were instituted and ordained by God for the sake of good order, 2 and that Christians may without sin occupy civil offices or serve as princes and judges, render decisions and pass sentence according to imperial and other existing laws, punish evildoers with the sword, engage in just wars, serve as soldiers, buy and sell, take required oaths, possess property, be married, etc. 3 Condemned here are the Anabaptists who teach that none of the things indicated above is Christian. 4 Also condemned are those who teach that Christian perfection requires the forsaking of house and home, wife and child, and the renunciation of such activities as are mentioned above. Actually, true perfection consists alone of proper fear of God and real faith in God, for the Gospel does not teach an outward and temporal but an inward and eternal mode of existence and righteousness of the heart. 5 The Gospel does not overthrow civil authority, the state, and marriage but requires that all these be kept as true orders of God and that everyone, each according to his own calling, manifest Christian love and genuine good works in his station of life. 6 Accordingly Christians are obliged to be subject to civil authority and obey its commands and laws in all that can be done without sin. 7 But when commands of the civil authority cannot be obeyed without sin, we must obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29).
The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. 1959 (T. G. Tappert, Ed.) (37–38). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Did you know that at one time Christians debated whether or not they could participate in civil government, or that some Christians still believe that it's ungodly to hold political office or serve as a soldier or even say the pledge of allegiance? Some things we just take for granted, not stopping to think about why we do or don't do certain things, and life in the civil realm is so often one of those things. Especially as we just celebrated Memorial Day, this month let's look at what the Bible says about our involvement in the State and how we, as Christians, can make a difference in this world for the better.
Paul says, "First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:1-4). So, first of all, we should be praying for our State and the states of the world, especially for those State leaders, lifting up our concerns and thanksgivings to God. We are to trust that God desires all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth and that he will do this in whatever State a person finds themselves. So we pray God's will and he will do it: that is, we pray our government be one such that the spread of the Faith is possible – be that because of our freedom to speak the Gospel or be that because of the afflictions that drive people to Him for help. This is our first and chief duties as citizens of the State.
As citizens, "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. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing" (Romans 13:1-6). The State is God's servant. Therefore we owe it respect and we owe those who work for God in this way taxes because they are working for God and for us. That's what Paul says, inspired by the Holy Spirit.
For this reason, of course Christians can serve in public offices in the State because this is God's service to our neighbor. Of course Christians pay taxes. Of course Christians can pledge their allegiance to the nation that is protecting them with God's authority. It is a good gift of God. Even when it is run by godless unbelievers, it still exists as the servant of God to punish evil and promote peace. Just consider that when Paul was writing this the Roman Caesar – the governing authority – was a mad man who was having Christians killed. Paul was beaten by governing authorities, shipwrecked with such, and placed under arrest. Yet he says, "Be subject to the governing authorities." The Apostle Peter, who was beaten and imprisoned by Jewish authorities and eventually executed by the Romans, says the same thing in his first epistle, "Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing god you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people."
More than ever, we need Christian men and women to step up and help lead this country so that, as Paul said, all people might be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. Especially in light of Memorial Day, please consider how God can use you to help our country: be that in simply praying, in serving in the armed forces, in running for office, or simply in voting. Praise God for our freedoms as Christians in this State and let's never forget that it all comes from God's hand.