I wouldn’t normally post up two posts by myself in a day, but since Dave has been out of pocket some today and this post has a “timely” basis for today, here it is. It has been a pretty slow day around anyway thanks to the holiday.
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.
– Romans 13:1
I daresay that most, if not all, of us are very familiar with this verse. Since our series of discussions about patriotic worship, I have been pondering the unique status that our form of government(I am speaking of America primarily, but other places with representative government would apply as well) places on us in light of these sort of commands from the Bible. I will not pretend to have all of the answers, so I will try and pose some good questions and see what we can come up with together.
Let me start with the most obvious puzzle. Paul tells us that all authority comes from God (Jesus said essentially the same thing to Pilate in John 19:11). If we believe this to be true, how should it color our decisions regarding voting and the people we vote for? Should we only vote for people that we think can “win” or should we vote for those we can support in good conscience? Does it ultimately even matter who we vote for at all?
Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. – Romans 13:2
We live in a country that was essentially founded by those who behaved in the complete opposite manner from this verse. We ultimately understand that given a choice between God’s Laws and the laws of man, we must pick God’s Laws every time, yet because we are given the opportunity to change the decisions of the “authorities” under our form of government as well; what do you think our response as believers should be regarding resisting ungodly laws?
3For 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, 4for 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. – Romans 13:3-4
I saw verse four come up in another discussion around here about the laws of marriage and whether or not the government has the “authority” to pass laws against the Law of God. It is no secret that many issues have arisen in our country that have put these verses to debate. Pastors have been and will be arrested in our country for preaching the Gospel in public. They have found reason to “fear” doing good. But that is nothing compared to the things that were happening to Christian at the time Paul wrote this and also to many of the first readers of this letter. How should we respond when leaders and rulers are a “terror to good conduct”? Paul conclusions might not be the ones I would normally gravitate to in this case:
Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience – Romans 13:5
Are we incurring God’s wrath when we fail to subject ourselves to the policies of the government we live under? When we are the government, how does that subjection play out in any case?
What do you think? I am grateful for the freedom that we have been given by all of those who have fought and died to bring it to us. On this day that we take time to remember and celebrate that sacrifice, I thought I might take the time to give us some food for thought about what that freedom really means to us as a responsibility. Or to put it another way, as Scripture says, “everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.”(Luke 12:48b)