Politics, Christians, and Romans 13, Part 4
As noted in our previous article, Romans 13:1-7 deals with Paul’s understanding of how Christians are to act in the world with respect to those who are in authority over us.
1 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.
6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.
We noted last time, with respect to verse 2 that people who rebel against authority are in effect, rebelling against God. This is very serious as far as God is concerned, even though people and leaders may take this lightly.
Verse 3 provides us an indication of what our responsibilities are in this and other situations and in this case, it’s not easy to digest. Paul says, “For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended.”
I know it should go without saying (but I’ll say it anyway so that there’s no misunderstanding), Christians are to respect those who are in authority and obey the law. We must at least respect the position that the person holds because it is God who has established authorities in the first place. There is only one time when Christians are under no obligation to not obey the law and that is when man’s laws seek to set aside God’s laws. Even then, it must be done respectfully so that God is honored.
Paul is talking about our response to authorities. In today’s day and age, it is not unheard of to hear Christians speak ill of the President or various elected politicians who have been charged with obeying the Constitution of the United States of America. I have personally heard some fairly atrocious language coming from people who call themselves Christians and I do not understand how that can be if we truly understand how we’re supposed to act when it comes to those in authority.
During the Roman Empire days, while Paul was still alive, persecution of Christians heated up dramatically. Aside from that, though the Roman roads were well-traveled and regularly policed by Roman soldiers, there was still plenty of crime to go around mainly because the Roman Empire was a huge place and like police officers today, those Roman soldiers could not be everywhere at once. Yet, in spite of this, Paul understood that as imperfect as things were then, God was still in charge. He had created a system whereby individuals were put in charge over other individuals. It’s the way it’s always been and it’s the way it will remain until He returns.
In every system of government, there is always at least one person and/or a group of people who are in charge of that government, whether it’s a democracy or a socialist state. Their given task is to create and oversee a society that is as safe as possible for the average citizen. Unfortunately, we know that this has not always been the case and in fact, it is too often rarely the case. This is why it is best to have more than one person running things. Even then, there are no guarantees against cronyism and corruption. With fallen people in the mix, anything can happen and often does.
So, what happens when corruption does occur and things seemed stacked against Christians and righteousness itself? Clearly, we cannot “rebel” against the authorities, can we? That would be opposed to God’s will for us. We can use the judicial system to see how God leads, knowing He may choose to help us there. He may also choose to not help us from that particular venue. Where does that leave us?
It leaves us at the same place we, as Christians, are always at. We can and should pray continuously (1 Thessalonians 5:21). We should seek His face. We should submit ourselves to Him for His care and to receive His counsel. Romans 8:38 tells us that nothing – not one thing – can or will separate us from God and His love for us. In spite of what we might experience in this life, God and His love always surround us. We are also told that He will never leave or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6; Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5).
If there is something we can do to change things for the better, we should certainly try. However, we must never lose sight of the one commission given to us by Jesus Himself: the Great Commission.
I recently heard a member of a very well-known popular rock group say that the “Lord told” him that the band he is in can make a difference for children who are dying, so he began a charity. The charity has nothing to do with introducing people to Jesus. It has to do with bringing final wishes to fruition. I’m not saying this is a bad thing. We should do what we can to alleviate sorrow and pain in others whenever possible. However, we also need to understand that no matter how much pain or sorrow we might alleviate in this life for someone, without Jesus and the only salvation that comes from Him, they will experience an eternity of torment in the next life. Helping fulfill their “final” wishes in this life amounts to nothing. In that sense then, I have to wonder whether or not God actually “told” this particular band member anything at all. It would seem not to be the case since the thing he was told has only to do with the temporal and not the eternal.
We are called to the Great Commission. We should always have that in the forefront of our minds. Certainly, helping people with their physical needs is very important, but if we’re not willing to share eternal truth with them as Jesus did, then all we’ve done is make them a bit more comfortable in this life. In essence, it does not matter what this world throws at us. He is with us. It doesn’t matter what type of injustices we receive in this life. God never leaves us. In the end, He will right all wrongs. It is enough for us to know that if we obey Him, we will be blessed by Him. To ignore the apostle Paul’s teachings here in Romans 13 means opposing God because He has set up the system of governance that we live under.
We really have no choice in the matter. We’ll be back with more next time.
Entry filed under: christianity, eternity, Political Correctness, Politically Correct, Politics, Religious - Christian - End Times, Religious - Christian - Prophecy, Religious - Christian - Theology, salvation. Tags: 1 thessalonians 6, authorities, great commission, hebrews 13:5, romans 13, Romans 8, systems of government.