THOSE OF US who consider ourselves Christian understand that God is the ultimate source of power and that all authority comes from Him. The entire witness of biblical revelation attests to this: from the Old Testament to the New, the scriptures affirm that God alone is King.
He is a God of order, and in His benevolence He enables humans to deal with our messes by “deputizing” us as agents of His authority. Thus, we are empowered to create structures that permit us to approximate the divine symmetry, as well as His harmony and peace. This is the idea, at least. Admittedly, it is an ideal not often achieved in this world. It only works perfectly if all parties are submitted to God – and by “submission” I mean not rote compliance with His commands but a plenary dedication of self to Him and His cause. It is a relationship of love whose fulcrum is the cross of Christ.
I had to present all that – albeit in extremely simple terms – to assert that every whit of human authority is derived from God. It is held as a trust and must be properly exercised. If humans enjoy any power at all, it is at the pleasure of the divine King to whom we are all accountable.
Global leaders, whether they are monarchs or premiers or presidents, have no real power per se, and should not presumptuously usurp, in their hubris, what is rightly God’s. As stewards of that trust, they are beholden to their principal and must give a proper account of their regime to Him.
In this highly secular world, what I have just discussed sounds anachronistic and absurd. Rodrigo Duterte would not only dismiss it with alacrity, he would kick it away with a slew of crisp expletives and a sinister chuckle. This will not negate its truth. It will only make things very bad for him when he crosses the bar and discovers that God is not stupid and that hell indeed exists.
But it is not only the secular and nominal who misapprehend this principle of stewardship/accountability. There are committed Christians who do so as well because they misinterpret the scriptures that teach it. Thus they preach unconditional fealty to government even when it authors policies that violate God’s will. (e.g., Manny Pacquiao’s impassioned support for Duterte’s war on drugs vs. his milquetoast stand on the related EJKs, his staunch sponsorship of the death penalty vs. the divine mandate not to kill, inter alia.)
This is not at all what the scriptures counsel. To ally one’s self with unrighteousness is to be unrighteous as well. In all cases, the mandate of God is pre-eminent. We are not constrained to obey statutes and presidential directives that force us to contravene God’s commands. Rather it is the government that must align itself with right and produce policies that promote the common weal.
I absolutely agree with the CBCP’s recent pastoral letter and wholeheartedly endorse it, even though I am not a Catholic myself. We do not have to share a denomination to love Jesus and celebrate His righteousness. We do not have to agree on all points of theology for us to espouse what is noble and good and true. It is at these times of crisis that we who are called by the name of Christ must stand abreast and together magnify His light to dispel the darkness.
It is good but not enough to cite this government’s abuse of human rights and other anomalies. We must actively call for the accountability of all public officers and demand righteousness from them as a matter of course, and as a matter of right as citizens of the Republic. We too have been endowed by God with authority, as our very Constitution acknowledges. We are the “sovereign Filipino people…” to whom national leaders must give an account of their rule.
Still and all, we the sovereign Filipino people must implore the aid of Almighty God, for we cannot achieve anything in our own capacity. Even our sovereignty is derived from the King, and it is to Him we must apply for guidance. Only He has the power and wisdom to bring order to this mayhem. May He have mercy on us and find us faithful.
But Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than any human authority. – Acts 5:29