“Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore, whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves” (Roman 13:1-2).
How do you feel about our current politicians in Washington? Approval rates for those who serve as governing officials show most of the public are displeased with them. Observing some of the posts on social media indicates that many people love to poke fun at, or are irate towards our politicians.
As Christians how are we to respond to those in political office? In the 13th chapter of Romans, Paul addresses how Christians are to view and treat those who serve as our governing officials. It is important to remember that at the time Paul wrote the book of Romans (i.e. approximately 57 A.D.), the Roman emperor Nero was ruling on the throne. Nero had ascended the throne in 54 A.D. and would die in 68 A.D. when he committed suicide. When Rome burned in 64 A.D., it was Nero who falsely blamed the Christians which led to a great persecution of those who follow Christ.
As Paul addresses how Christians are to view the governing authorities, he states that the governing authorities have been appointed by God: “Let every soul by subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God” (Romans 13:1). We may not like who holds the particular political office, but God, in His Providence, has put them in the position they hold. The people of our nation may vote, but it is God who rules the nations and puts people in positions of power (Daniel 4:17). God refers to the person in a governing position as “God’s minister” even though they may not even believe in Him (Romans 13:4, cf. Nero)!
Knowing the governing authorities are appointed by God, as a Christian how should I to treat them? I am told to be “subject” to them (Romans 13:1). Regarding how I am to treat the governing officials, Paul writes, “Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience' sake” (Romans 13:5). As long as those governing are not trying to force me disobey God’s law, which is the Higher law I must always follow (cf. Acts 5:29), I must be subject to them for conscience sake (i.e. because I realize God put them in the position they hold) and because of wrath (i.e. they have the God appointed power to punish me if I refuse to be subject to them, cf. Romans 13:2-3).
What is involved in my being subject to the governing positions? I am to pay taxes, obey customs, show fear or reverence towards them, and to show them honor (Romans 13:7). God doesn’t tell me I have to like those who hold political office, but I do have to respect them. In the film “Band of Brothers”, Captain Sobel had failed to salute Major Winters because he was upset that Winters had been promoted above him. Major Winters notices this, calls Captain Sobel’s attention, and says, “Captain Sobel, we salute the rank, not the man!” We are to “salute” those in governing positions by respecting them, honoring them, and paying taxes to them, even though we may disagree with them!
We are privileged in our nation to have the freedom to voice our opposition and to vote. The Christians in Rome in Paul’s time didn’t have that opportunity. However, in voicing our views about who should govern us, we must act in such a way as glorifies God (Matthew 5:16). Today, I will remember to fear, honor, and pay taxes to those who serve as God’s ministers in government!
“Therefore, I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence” (1 Timothy 2:2).