Words in Romans

1:00 AM

Rome. If you study anything about it at the time of Jesus you will find it was a corrupted society and government. Evil leaders, assassinations, immorality praised, rampant bribery, a lawless army, and many perversions of justice. This was the kind of government in place when Paul penned his letter to the Romans. Yet, in spite of all this, we find a section in chapter 13 verses 1-7.

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 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 sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.

It sounds so odd doesn’t it? Paul commanding those in Rome to submit and honor a government that was corrupted, spending tax money on a murdering army and its own immoral pleasures. Yet, Paul does. Why? I think that the last verse of chapter 12 might give us a hint

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:21 NIV

Now there are exceptions (see next week’s post) but not many. Obviously, just because a government is corrupt does not negate these rules, as Rome was about as corrupt as they come. So what does this mean for us in a practical sense? How are we to apply this to how we live today?

  • We are to pay our taxes (which I admit I grumbled about when I realized I owed 15% of what I made last year)
  • We are to respect (hold them in high regard) those in authority, and treat them with respect. This includes how we talk about them in person and our social media accounts (I am guilty of failing in this.) 
  • We are to honor (treat with deference) them. This can be even harder than respecting them, because some of them are not honorable people. But still, God has called us to treat them with honor. If you met with the president that you think has been worse for this country, you still would need to treat them with deference as God commanded.

Yes, this chapter is not an easy one to apply. I know that I have often made up excuses for when I disrespect the president or another elected official. It is so easy to see their faults and so easy to complain. I have failed so many times to obey this part of scripture. However, I refuse to give myself that excuse any longer. I will strive, in God’s strength, to speak with respect about those in authority. I will honor even those who I do not feel are honorable, as God has commanded.

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  1. Interesting. Actually, I did some musing on that passage in light of some of my Fiction Reading a while back.
    I read a lot of Historical Fiction, and I do note with some discomfort how often characters (including Christian ones), are disrespectful or even insubordinate because the authority figures or social expectations in the story do not line up with their notions of Political or Personal 'Freedom', 'Liberty' or 'Rights'.
    Not only it is anachronistic, I think its potentially worrying

    1. I know. This series has grew out of what God has been teaching me. So many things that we have accepted are just not biblical. Some fiction has started bothering me too and I look forward to addressing the issue in my next Revolutionary War book.

    2. Indeed. In one series, for instance, the characters complain and complain about the King wanting a marriage between families to end a feud because he's not 'considering the feelings' of the girl involved.
      C'mon, somehow I think preventing the violent deaths of many people is more important then hurting a teenage girl's feelings, and the King had more important things to worry about. It just comes across as very selfish and self-centred.
      I think one of the problems is that we have lost the sense of community, and we only consider ourselves and not the effect of our actions on the wider group, or their good.