I try not to get into discussions or blogs about politics or anything about the government, but while reading through Romans 13:1-7, I was reminded about when I worked as a Census Enumerator (one who went to the houses and took Census surveys from those who turned theirs in late or not at all) in 2010, how many people I came across who either just don’t trust the government, or who are very much against it right now, and are fast to criticize it. Some even refused to do the census as a way of rebelling against our government. But at the same time, they would swear up and down that they are Christians. The thing is, Paul says that if you rebel against your government, you are actually rebelling against God, for it is God who put that government into place, as God’s servants for the sake of good.
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. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 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. 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. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.
This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 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. –Romans 13:1-7
So when we look at the text, Paul says in verse 1 that we must “submit ourselves to our governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” Keep in mind that the government in place at the time of Paul’s writing this, was Nero:
- The Caesar who many claim represents the 666 in Revelation
- The Caesar who burned down Rome and when under heat, accused and blamed the Christians, which resulted in the executions of many Christians
- Who was evil and perverted in practically every way
- Who killed many of Jesus’ Apostles
- Who tortured and killed huge numbers of Christians
- And who would later have Paul beheaded
In other words, this was not a good government, yet Paul tells his readers to obey it. Now granted, there are examples in the Bible where people who disobeyed the government were in the right, such as:
- The midwives of Egypt who disobeyed Pharaoh in order to obey God (Exodus 1:15-21)
- Rahab, who disobeyed her government when she hid the Israelite spies (Joshua 2:2-6)
- The 7,000 Israelites who never bowed down to Baal (1 Kings 19:18)
- Daniel, who was commanded by the government to pray only to the king, and yet instead prayed every night to the Lord with his door closed and windows open (Daniel 6:7-16)
- Peter and John, who when charged by the Pharisees to no longer talk of Jesus, replied that they must obey God rather than man (Acts 4:18-19)
Why were they blessed for not obeying the government? Because though God establishes the governments, God also put limits on authority. We must obey the government until it becomes a direct opposition to God. Who are our governing authorities? We’ve got Family, Church, Work, and Government. How well do you submit to your authorities?
Verse 2 (this part is crucial): “Consequently, whoever rebels against their authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.”
I’ve lived through quite a few presidents: Ford, Carter, Reagan, Clinton, both Bush’s, and even for how messed up each of them were or how badly they did while in office, I have not heard nearly as many arguments, debates, criticism, and rebellion towards either of them as I have against Obama. One of the biggest upsets towards Obama for a while though (including when I was working the Census), has been about his Obamacare health insurance. Many say it’s a bad plan, some feel blessed to be on it; some complained about the sign-up process, some complained about the requirements; some know a lot about it, some do not; some people say that he had a great plan, but that it turned out bad like this because the Republicans forced him to wield it into this such, but whatever the reason, most (if not all) of America blames Obama for coming up with such a bad plan. However, my point of mentioning this is that instead of complaining about how terrible our president is doing, regardless of who you voted for, you (we) should be praying for him (for, not against). Why? Because God put into place whom He willed, and Paul said that if you rebel against Obama (or any other government official), then you’re actually rebelling against God, who put him there. You don’t have to like your current leader, but you do have to honor him/her, as 1 Peter says to honor the king. And by how you do this will reveal of what spirit you are.
Also on that note, as one who’s served as a leader in the Church, I can say that one of the major issues among Christians (today?) is that so many are quick to criticize a Church leader (Pastor, Youth Pastor, Music Director, etc.) and slow to pray for them. One morning, I heard a Pastor say in response to this, “If you pray for me, then you can rebuke me. But if you don’t pray for me, then you have no right to criticize me.” I like that. For as Kingdom-people, we believe that God reigns in Jesus Christ. And since Christ reigns, instead of criticizing who God placed into leadership, we must pray for our leaders, for Paul says in verses 6-7 that “the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.”
Here are some tips to help us support and submit to our government, as Paul tells us to do:
- Seek God for our government/leaders: As People of God, we need to pray for (not against) our authorities/government/leaders. Once you pray, you can then rebuke them. But if you don’t pray, then you have no right to criticize it. If God is your god, then pray for the people He put into leadership, regardless of how you “feel” about them.
- Support our government/leaders: Pay your taxes (Give to God what’s God’s, give to Caesar what is Caesar’s). Rome at that time had a HUGE tax rate. Our economy’s not that good today and our taxes haven’t gone down any, but we are required to pay our taxes. Stop complaining about how messed up the government is and start praying for improvement, change, and for our leaders to seek guidance from and to obey the Holy Spirit, regardless of how they think it’ll affect the polls.Support our leaders and let them know you support them, so they will be more encouraged to do good.
- Select our government/leaders: When voting, vote for freedom, life (from the womb to the tomb), and justice. Love good and abhor evil. This is an encouragement to everybody to “Get involved.” Do something about that which bothers you, but do it God’s way. One thing that has always bugged me is when somebody complains about something, but does nothing to change it. If your finger’s bleeding, but you don’t do anything to stop the bleeding, then you have no right to complain about it bleeding. If you’re upset about children not knowing how to read, pray for direction and tutor a child to read.
We Christians are of a different spirit than that of the world! We don’t shut down people, we don’t mock people – we do the opposite – and we pray for and honor our leaders.