In all the uproar over the recent election, some mayhave overlooked what the voting patterns told usabout ourselves. Exit interviewers painted a pictureof citizens of two different nations going to thepolls. Large numbers of urban, secular, and singlevoters went for Gore, for economic reasons; whilesuburban, religious, and married voters went forBush, largely for moral reasons.

Given the incredibly close vote, one thing is clear:Roughly half of all Americans are going to oppose thepolicies of the new president. And those with moralconvictions are going to feel especially strong aboutit.

I've already heard some people say they want to leavethe country, or they'll disavow their government.This raises an always crucial question: How doChristians live under a government whose policies wesharply disagree with -- even one whose positions wefind morally offensive? The answer is surprisinglysimple. Except in the most extraordinarycircumstances, we're to live the same way we wouldunder a government we do agree with.

In 1 Timothy, Christians are commanded to pray forthose in authority. Why? Because, as Paul explains inRomans 13, government officials are God's servants topreserve order and administer justice in the publicarena. Notice that Paul doesn't limit his descriptionto good rulers. In fact, he wrote these words duringthe reign of Nero, one of the cruelest, most viciousRoman emperors.

Whether our rulers are good or bad, whether we agreeor disagree with their policies, our duty is thesame: to respect and pray for them. That doesn'tpreclude criticizing their policies, of course, buteven criticism should flow from an attitude ofprayer.

Now, respecting our leaders does not precludedisobeying the powers that be, but we may disobeyonly when to obey would mean disobedience to God. Forexample, in the Old Testament, Daniel refused to obeythe king's command to worship idols. Christians werethrown to the lions in the first century, you'llrecall, because they refused to say that Caesar --not Jesus -- is Lord.

Clearly, civil disobedience must be chosen whenevercivil magistrates frustrate our ability to obey God.However, when we take this course, we must do sowithout resorting to violence. And we must beprepared to bear the consequences that a wickedmagistrate will mete out against us, as Peter andJohn told the Sanhedrin when they refused to stoppreaching the gospel.

Some fifty years ago, German theologian DietrichBonhoeffer did just that. He resisted the Nazigovernment, and was ultimately martyred.

So, yes, there are times when Christians must standagainst an unjust regime. God ordains leaders, butthey must act within the scope of the authority hehas given them. If they repress religious freedom, orslaughter the innocent, or trample human rights,they're violating God's trust. They're failing tocarry out their biblically ordained duty to preserveorder and to promote justice. And then, they're nolonger entitled to our allegiance.