Should Christians Submit to a “Bad” Leader?

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What the Bible says about obeying and submitting to leaders, even if you think they are bad

Christians must submit to rulers and authorities (1 Peter 2:13-17; Romans 13:2-5). However, if your leader or President is asking you to dishonor God, the Bible has caveats to dissent (Romans 13:1; Mark 12:17). We must obey God rather than men. (Acts 5:29)

The Jews submitted despite atrocities

In Biblical times, God’s people submitted even to “bad leaders.” For example, the Assyrian, Egyptians, Romans, and their religious leaders abused them. In WW2, they submitted to Hitler’s evil reign to the point of death.

Nehemiah led a rally, but submitted to the crown

Nehemiah led the “great protest” in the Bible. He defended his people against leaders who enslaved and exploited them. Others use this to justify government resistance. Well, it is not.

Nehemiah was a cupbearer to King Artaxerxes, which means he had to be submissive and respectful to be trusted. He reasoned and fought for the people who were being abused by their Jewish brothers, not the King.

Moses challenged Pharaoh until he caved in

Moses’ family hid him when he was a baby. When he grew up, God appointed him to warn the Pharoah. God’s people could have mounted a revolution, but they waited on God’s deliverance.

Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego submitted to punishment

They refused to bow before the gods. God alone deserves our worship! They answered King Nebuchadnezzar in a gentle and respectful manner. Not affront and without insulting his gods. (Daniel 3:16; Gill’s Exposition)

The Apostles urged Christians to pray for kings & leaders

Despite their evil rulers, the Apostles urged Christians to pray, intercede, & be thankful. Why? So that they may have a peaceful quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. (1 Timothy 2:1-2)

Jesus avoided confrontation

Pilate asked Jesus, “Do You refuse to speak to me? Do You not know that I have authority to release You and authority to crucify You?” Jesus answered, “You would have no authority over Me if it were not given to you from above.

Who defines a bad or good leader? What if half of the citizens are saying your leader is doing good? What if it is God’s will? Point is, you have to trust God to whoever leader He allows to rule. To say that a President of a nation was not appointed by God is to rewrite scriptures (Romans 13:1). God has raised up even wicked leaders in the past. (Habakkuk 1:6)

We must obey God rather than men.

Submission in the Bible is crystal clear

If based on Biblical examples, a quick answer is YES. We have to submit and respect our leaders. Early Christians were martyred because they refused to worship Ceasar. We must obey God rather than men.

  • The apostles didn’t bother to change the government. Perhaps they knew they were citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20), or they wanted to use their resources to ministry alone, why waste time?
  • They left the political battle to unbelievers because they fought the real enemy.
  • They mobilized prayers and fasting. (Ephesians 6:12)
  • Jesus knew the abuses of Rome. His appeal was to the hearts of men, not their political freedom.

Why would God allow a bad leader to rule?

Clearly, evil rulers have NO authority unless God allowed them to continue in their seat of power (John 19:11). We do not know the mind of God as to why He would allow bad leaders to rule. In the past, God placed “bad leaders” for these reasons:

  • To judge a nation. (2 Kings 20:17-18)
  • Test their faithfulness. (Isaiah 13:19)
  • Expose sin that brought judgment. (Isaiah 10:5-19)
  • Set in motion the birth of the Messiah. (Psalm 18:50)

→ Is it sin to criticize a bad person?

Remember, Jesus avoided politics: In Matthew 21:22, if Jesus said NO to pay taxes, it’s subversion. If He said YES, it’s condoning the Emperor’s ownership of the people. Jesus pointed to the image of Caesar and said, “Give back to Ceasar…” The people were amazed because he was apolitical to something that had obvious political implications.

Our response as Christians

Christian activism is not in the New Testament. Social justice in the Bible is about helping people, not arguing with authority or ideologies. We must always be peaceable, not malign anyone (Titus 3:1-2). In His time, God will remove corrupt leaders.

If God calls you in media, expose evil. If you work in the government, exercise righteousness. Meantime, we move mountains through prayers and change society by sharing Jesus.

RELATED READING:
The real political threat of Filipino Christians.
Should Christians rally against the government?
Is it a sin to complain to the government?

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6 COMMENTS

  1. Maraming Christians ang makakarelate dito. Nakakatawa kasi minsan yung mga leader mong magsasabi sayo ng tama, sila pa mismo ang hindi makakagawa noon. Respetuhin mo pa rin kahit ganun ang leader mo, kasi sila pa rin ang binigay ni Lord na manguna sayo

    • Hindi ako agree sa sinasabi mo kasi kung ano ang puno yun din ang bunga. Kaya if your leader is a bad influence to you, you better evaluate on yourself. Baka hindi mo alam na cocorrupt ka na rin

  2. We can’t expect all to agree. Remember, the Holy Bible is the book for God’s Children.

    Everyone is created by God but not all are His children. He only gives and grants the adaption to His family to those who believe and receive Him as Lord and Savoiur.

    John 1:12 , “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:”

    Matthew 7:23, “And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”

  3. It’s true that we must submit to our governing authorities, but not if they violate God’s laws.. and that is in the bible. Please research and then give the correct info here. Thanks!

  4. Christians are commanded to submit to rulers and authorities (1 Peter 2:13-17; Romans 13:2-5). However, if your leader is asking you to dishonor God, the Bible has caveats to dissent (Romans 13:1; Mark 12:17). We must obey God rather than men. (Acts 5:29)

    You can find this in the same document..

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