Read Romans 13:1-7
In our current “Changing Culture” series, we are taking a look at how a believer is to live as a Christ follower in a society and world that is undergoing radical change.
Well, I drew the short straw! I am the one addressing the subject of the Christian response to government and politics.
OK, I am exaggerating. I chose the topic from a list of areas that deserve consideration. Still, there is no doubt about it – this topic is a volatile one. I can think of no other time in my nearly 60 years of life when the political landscape has been so tense. The divide over topics like racial issues, COVID responses, and immigration is vast. The distance between political parties is growing.
Still, Paul’s admonition to believers in this passage is rooted in the reality that God establishes governing authorities. This is more than the principle that God has established government in a general way. It includes the recognition that individual leaders are God’s servants. He uses them to punish wrong. He uses government leaders for our good. Read the passage again and note those truths.
These ideas are not difficult to understand, but they can be challenging to embrace. In our current political climate, we may be tempted to push back. Keep in mind that first-century believers could have done that as well. The Roman government at the time was not particularly sympathetic to Christians and their convictions. Still, Paul did not hesitate to write these truths.
In light of those principles of God’s sovereignty in government, then, Paul calls believers to:
- Subject themselves to government (vv. 1, 5)
- Pay taxes (vv. 6, 7)
- Provide revenue (v. 7)
- Demonstrate respect (v. 7)
- Exhibit honor (v. 7)
Can you find biblical examples of exceptions to the overarching principle of subjection to government? To be sure. Hebrews in Egypt protected baby boys in spite of the king’s decree (Exodus 1, 2). Paul challenged governing authorities in Philippi when they acted contrary to their guidelines (Acts 16:37). Peter chose to obey God when rulers in Jerusalem commanded him to stop speaking out in the name of Jesus (Acts 4:16, 17).
These exceptions are real, but we must be careful not to make them our default setting. Our default setting as believers is one of subjection and of sincere prayer for those in authority…while seeking to win those around us to the person of Christ rather than our preference in life.