Read Romans 13:1-7
“There is no authority except by God’s appointment, and the authorities that exist have been instituted by God … it is God’s servant for your well-being.”
I read the words and want to believe them. But it’s tempting to remove them from their biblical context. Tempting to make blanket statements about Christians following a leader’s orders because God’s hand gave them their authority. Tempting until I think about leaders like Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot.
So, I wonder how this part of Scripture concurs with who I know God to be. It doesn’t fit that the same God who sacrificed everything to free mankind from the prison of death and evil and sin would command His people to follow the ways of Nazi Germany. But when we put Romans 13 into its actual context and let the whole of God’s Word interpret itself, we find the root of God’s sovereign and merciful ways even here.
“Therefore,” Paul starts this last section off, “in view of God’s mercy, present your bodies as a living sacrifice …” And He lays out practical ways to show who we are as followers of Jesus, full of His love and freedom.
“Abhor what is evil,” the verses in chapter 12 say, “cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another with mutual love, showing eagerness in honoring one another.” And this after eleven chapters explaining the Gospel, our need for Jesus, His power for any who will believe in His life exchanged for theirs, His fulfilment of the promises He made to His people for generations. Chapters 12-16 explain what it looks like to live in light of that truth. Live like we belong to God, as His people submitting to one another, honoring one another, loving one another.
So, it follows that God’s people would display honor and love to our governing authorities. We show love even when we disagree with them. We do good even when we don’t like them and want another one to hold that place. Because God has called His people to love, honor, and respect our leaders. In view of the mercy that He Himself has bestowed upon us, you and I give up our rights to dishonor those in authority, no matter which side of the political party lines we stand on. We gave up the right to disgrace our president with Facebook posts and slanderous jokes, even when we don’t like what he stands for. We surrendered it when we trusted Him with our lives.
It doesn’t mean to bow to Hitler’s commands or follow Stalin’s evil ways. Rather, it means to live according to the love and mercy of Jesus Christ. If you’ve offered your life to Him in light of that mercy, trust that God’s hand still leads those into leadership even when you disagree with their policies.