Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Authorities that Exist have been Established by God

Romans 13 is a controversial chapter, particularly for its writings on the Christian and submission to the existing governments.

How passive are Christians to be when the government acts immorally, unethically, wickedly? Paul writes: "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 swoard for no reason. They are God's servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer." But what about when the government is the wrongdoer?

Surely Paul was not asserting that the Romans were atrocity free? Julius Caesar had blood on his hands, the whole Empire was built on killing fields. How does Paul get away with asserting this kind of submission to this immoral Caeasar-ruled government? Maybe because elsewhere Paul has argued that God's ways are beyond ours, and what he is up to is not always trust him. I can see his point, but what is this submission, this almost forced subjection, to look like.

Interestingly, the passage opens on the heels of this verse: "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." Paul is not stupid, but he also recognizes the benefits of being a citizen in good allows more room to move and preach and serve. So he prefaces his sermon on submission to authorities with a sly reference to a common experience: those with power are often corrupted by evil...but don't be a a Jesus.

Also, Paul follows the passage with a message on love: "Let no debt remain outstanding (taxes, revenue, respect, honor) except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law." This means that we are always indebted to God and must love both George Bush's, both the Clintons, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Newt Gingrich and all the other politicians that have drawn the ire of all sorts of Christ-lovers.

Whether all the people in Washington are there by God's will or not can be debated, but what is not debatable is our general response: respond to their evil with greater good, and always respond to them with love for them.

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