Wednesday, October 29, 2014

civil authority and the Christian

Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.
Romans 13:2

It is quite interesting that Paul wrote these admonitions to the church at the very center of an authoritarian empire. Rome was a military dictatorship to her conquered lands, even if she was a kind of republic to her own citizens. The government she enforced came to the people at the end of a powerful sharp sword. The citizens of the empire may have known unprecedented peace and a high degree of prosperity, but it came at a price. Caesar was worshiped as a god. The military was an oppressive force. Taxes were high and payment was enforced ruthlessly.

Yet Paul commanded the Roman church to respect the authority of the empire's rule. His reason seems shocking: God instituted the government over them by His sovereign hand. To be subject to Rome's system was to be obedient to the will of God. And to resist the civil authorities was to invite judgment from God Who set it up as His plan. Paul even elaborates the reasons specifically further in his explanation by demanding submission at every level: payment of taxes, handing over revenue, giving respect, and honoring leaders (Romans 13:7).

We are in an election cycle (again) in the United States. It discourages me to see the endless blame and attack strategy that is 21st century American politics. But it is the government that God has instituted over me, like it or not, so I must respect it. So when I vote this coming Tuesday morning, I will be respecting what God has made. I can participate in it as one voice with my own small contribution of one vote. And I must respect that outcome as the wisdom of God because "there is no authority except from God and those that exist have been instituted by God". Romans 13:1 is true right now even as it was true when it was written about a brutal pagan empire.

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