After some of the leadership fiascoes in Washington, DC in recent years, Americans should be very thankful to have a good and decent husband and wife team now occupying the White House. We can pray heartily for President and Mrs. George W. Bush, and ask God's guidance for them. And all of God's people around the world can and should pray for their human leaders, even though none are perfect.
The great God who rules over the nations tells us through the Apostle Paul: "Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence" (1 Timothy 2:1-2). This does not mean that we agree with all the ideas, behaviors and policies of these men or women. It means that we deeply respect the office in which they are serving, for the office is ultimately of God.
The prophet Daniel tells us (Daniel 4:17) that "the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, gives it to whomever He will, and sets over it the lowest of men." Throughout the Bible, God clearly indicates that He wants all humans to respect authority. For the ultimate Authority is God Himself. If a child, for instance, does not learn to respect his parents, his teachers and the civic authorities as he grows up, he may easily become a rebel or even a hardened criminal as an adult! Ultimately, he will not even respect God because of this approach to life that he has been allowed to develop.
When describing some of the early apostates who "turned the grace of our God into licentiousness" (Jude 3-4) and who virtually took over the professing Christian church, the inspired Apostle Jude writes: "Likewise also these dreamers defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries. Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, 'The Lord rebuke you!'" (vv. 8-9). It is interesting and significant that Michael the archangel did not even revile Satan the Devil! For Satan still occupied an office. Even now, until Christ returns, Satan is "the god of this age" (2 Corinthians 4:3-4), and Jesus called Satan "the ruler of this world" (John 14:30).
Therefore, even if a religious or political office is misused, or obviously wrong decisions are made by one in high office, true Christians should respect the office of those involved even though they may not agree with the decisions. This simply means that we respect the fact that God is ultimately in charge and that we will wait on Him to remove any evil or misguided men from office—or straighten things out in some other way in God's own time.
In some cases—usually very rare cases—we may honor the office involved yet disobey certain directives coming from that office. An early example of this was the situation surrounding Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego (Daniel 3). They definitely showed respect to King Nebuchadnezzar, yet they had to obey the higher authority of Almighty God who had commanded them not to bow down before idols! So did they rebel or try to assassinate the king? Of course not! They made themselves subject to the penalty Nebuchadnezzar imposed, and looked to God to either deliver them or resurrect them in His time. They put their trust in God, though they respected human authorities even as they did so!
In the New Testament, we read the example of Peter and the rest of the Apostles being threatened by the Jewish authorities. When they were commanded not to preach about Jesus Christ, they answered respectfully but stated very clearly: "We ought to obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29). We must all have the faith and courage to obey the highest authority, Almighty God, no matter what the consequences! But in the normal course of human events, the examples cited above would definitely be exceptional. Obviously we should not come up with silly excuses to break the traffic laws or fail to pay our taxes.
In fact, God instructs us very directly to obey or show honor to all those in authority. Notice carefully Romans 13:1-2: "Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves." As these verses make very clear, God is the ultimate Authority. So when we disobey or show blatant disrespect to any constituted authority, we are, in fact, showing disrespect to God Himself.
Then Paul states in the above passage: "For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God's ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor" (vv. 6-7). Therefore, true Christians will not "cheat" on their taxes. They will obey all reasonable laws, honor the flag and give honor and respect to their constituted leaders. Christians will try to be good citizens in every way, except as obedience to any particular law or decree would cause them to violate the higher laws of God.
While living in Great Britain for four years of my adult life, I was pleased to honor Queen Elizabeth II and to show respect to the British flag and to the nation in which I was residing. When their national anthem, "God Save the Queen" was played, I stood at attention and had chills go up and down my spine just as when I heard "The Star Spangled Banner."
All Christians should be grateful for what God has given us—including the help and at least partial protection afforded by our governments. We should be happy to pray that God will guide all those in authority. And we should sincerely honor the offices of President of the United States, Prime Minister of Britain and all those legally constituted offices of any nation on earth. For these offices are of God.