Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities…by Rene Milner
Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities. Yep, I went there. No, I am not going to tell you how you should vote or what Christian civil disobedience should look like. I think sometimes we go to the Bible and read a passage that makes us squirm and then we do all kinds of mental jujitsu to make it fit what we think it should say or what someone else told us it should say. In fact if the truth be known, and you are anything like me, it is more than sometimes. How do we prevent that innate tendency to hear what we want to hear and tell ourselves what we think is good for “me”? Well the best answer is to have a true body of believers who hold the Word of God foremost, The Glory of God utmost, and the love of God’s people to the outermost edge of their comfort zone. Praise God for this gift in the many different study groups at New Life.
Thursday morning the men got to walk through Romans 13:1-5. This would seem like a timely passage. Given our current state in the US, but given a little discipline and some strong leadership, we were able to put a “hold” on the political thoughts and really look at what the passage was saying. I thought that this would be a good place to share some of that accumulated wisdom from the group.
Paul is talking to a group who is being persecuted and facing increasing persecution on several fronts. He has just finished telling them to transform their minds and offer their bodies as a sacrifice. He now gives them a pragmatic approach to living in an imperfect world. They are to not think too highly of themselves but to place importance on others. To love with them, laugh with them and weep with them. He is very practical about how we should act toward others and what our “transformed” mind should look like on the outside when it is working on the inside. In the end we need to overcome evil with good.
After describing what makes this happen and how it looks with brothers and gentiles he moves on to our response to the governing authorities. These are the people who carry out the logistics of Law and order. Just like everyone else we are to live with them peaceably. For this group this means being under them. Submitting to their decisions and direction. The current climate makes us want to ask “Why would I want to do that?” Hold that thought. First let’s make sure we know what that statement clearly means. We are to be under who? The governing authorities. Too often when we think of that we become fearful. What if they don’t choose like I would choose? What if they honor someone I don’t want to honor? What if they allow something I think is evil? How strictly American is all of that? If the only authorities we will submit to are ones that follow our line of thinking then they are authorities put in place by us. Our power, our decisions or our votes. This is not what the scripture says! They are put in place by God. And I would say God alone. The confusion we sometimes have is that they are not a replacement for God. They in turn are under His authority. They are just the hired hands put in place to maintain order down here in a very real way. We should fear them if we don’t submit and we should seek their approval in doing good. Where do we go wrong? It is not the authority that is wrong. It is our expectation of that authority. It is us who seek our safety and dare I say even our sovereign protection from the governing authorities. That is perverse. God alone can supply that protection. Whatever other structures are in place to carry out directions, we cannot turn to them for security. “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.” Yes we vote, but the outcome of that vote changes nothing in our security. Man makes his plans but God determines his course. This is not to say that we will like it or that it won’t hurt but we are secure through all of it.
So why do I submit? The easy answer is that God says so. Deeper than that it is directly in line with what the last chapter taught us. Live peaceably, approve what is right and overcome evil with good. By doing this God is glorified. I would hazard to say unbelievers are rarely drawn to God by demonstrations, anger and arguments. Likely they are often drawn by Kindness, Love and cooperation. Knowing that God absolutely controls all outcomes, perhaps what we do is less important than the motive and how we do it. Don’t get me wrong, I do believe that there is a battle to be fought, but while we are fighting down here with our anger and our careless words the real battle rages on around us. The weapons of that warfare are not of the flesh, but just perhaps our love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control are more than just fruit but quite possibly weapons to offer access for others to the kingdom of God.
To God Alone Be the Glory.