Government is God's minister? Struggling with Romans 13

I’ve been chewing on Romans 13 today.  I am struggling in several ways, but most so in comparing the governments we see in the world today – some that are truly the living definition of “unjust” and “ungodly”.  Government that could not be any more “anti-Christian” in nature – yet I go back to Romans 13, particularly the first 7 verses, and I am truly struggling to reconcile my heart and thoughts with the writer’s words.

What kind of government did the writer see?  I seriously doubt it was any more “godly” than what we see today.  Yet how can we reconcile that with phrases like:

  • “for he is God’s servant for your good” 
  • “Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval”?  

Right here in the US, there are Christians being forced by the government to engage in activities that blatantly fly in the face of the Bible.  When bakery owners, who are trying to live their lives and run their business affairs according to God-glorifying principals, yet when they choose to not produce the wedding cake for a “homosexual marriage”, they find themselves on the losing end of a lawsuit.  This government that is suppose to be “God’s agent for our good” is somehow not exactly pressing the biblical agenda.

Indeed, a list is rapidly growing of Christian business owners who have found themselves on that same losing end, over the same basic point.  This post isn’t meant as a treatise on the immorality or sinful nature of homosexuality and by extension, “gay marriage”, as the Bible speaks extremely clearly on the issue (despite the denials of many).  Indeed – this issue jus presents the “controversy of the day” in an ever-expanding list of ways government seems to act radically in opposition to what God teaches in His Word.

We have a government here in the US that has openly lied to the people, lied to the world, all with no obvious positive end to “justify the means”.  We have politicians who openly mock God and the Bible.  Yet all of this (and a lot more) pales in comparison to what is happening in many nations around the world.   Try “being” a Christian in Iran, where the simple mention of Jesus Christ as God, as the Savior will get you arrested, tortured, and possibly put to death.  While this might bring glory to God when a Christian stays truth through it all – to his (or her) death, is is very hard to see how that could be such a “great thing” from a fleshly point of view. In fact, not a day goes by where direct, and even violent persecution against Christians isn’t happening at the hands of “those in authority”.

How can we reconcile the words of Romans 13 with what we see transpiring al around us – the very real evil on display?  The simple answer: Faith.  We many never in our lifetime see how what the government has done that was truly for “our good” or for the glory of God.  But God’s Word says it, our job is to trust it!

Does that mean we are to just sit down and shut up and “comply”?  I don’t believe so.  While scripture says that we are to submit to the authority, here in the USA, we live under a system that was put into place over 200 years ago that was based on the term “Freedom”.  But those framers, while suffering from their own serious moral issues, recognized that true freedom relied on two things – acknowledging God and government that is restrained.  That restraint included the rights enshrined in the Bill of Rights, which begins with the 1st Amendment.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The framers of the Constitution saw the need to allow the free expression of religious faith.  But let us understand that the “religion” in they eyes of the framers was “Christianity”.  It was no Islam.  It was not Buddhism, and it was not Atheism (by definition IS a “religion”).  That does not mean that the writers desired to force everyone to follow “Christianity”, as the “establishment” part clearly prevents.  But it was primarily about citizens being able to live out their faith.  Their eyes were clearly focused on not repeating the state-inflicted religious persecution (not the perceived inconvenience of seeing a cross displayed, or the ten commandments on a courthouse wall) that had become so prevalent in Europe (what we can understand as a state religion).  Many of those governments put Christians to death for the “crime” of not following their official version of “church”.
Yet our nation that enshrined the freedom to express (and literally live) our faith, is now engaged in systematically taking those rights away from us.  Is it any wonder that any professed Christians are becoming discouraged, or even dangerously jaded?
And then we come back to Romans 13.  And I think about what the early Christians faced – martyrdom.  They faced officials and authorities that directly sought the destruction of Christianity.  Recall, this is the exact mission that Paul, still known as Saul, was officially authorized to engage in.  Then I think of the relative peace that the early church saw in Jerusalem, along with great growth – it took the resurgence of persecution to disperse the Christians, carrying the Gospel with them.
And indeed, some of the greatest advances of the Gospel came under the most extreme of persecution.
So – what can we conclude?  If you are a born-again Christian, you must have faith that God will use the government to your good and for what will ultimately bring Him the most glory.  That may involve persecution.  But this also should inspire you to take advantage of the law and the Constitution of this nation and to actually speak up and stand up for what is right according to God’s Word.  Seek to live your life (and run your business) according to God’s standards.  And when conflict between these arises (as our current political atmosphere indicates will happen), then stand on the Word of God, and be willing to accept what may come, even by the Government.  We enjoyed a lot of freedom and protection in this nation as “Christians”, but we are losing it step-by-step because of complacency and failure to speak up while we could, influencing the culture in a Godly way.
Peter and his companions in ministry were arrested, beaten, and threatened to stop preaching Jesus Christ.  The refused to comply- instead it pushed them to be even more bold in speaking the truth to the lost world.

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