What if Donald Trump was right? What if the system is rigged? But not by the media, not by the democrats, but by a string-holding Stromboli in the sky.
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. Rom. 13:1-2
There you go. Straight and simple. Every governing authority at any level at any period of time in any country was established by God. To resist that authority is not only to push back against our rulers, but against the sovereign power behind them.
I guess that means that, for whatever reason, God wanted Genghis Khan to be a genocidal maniac, killing about 40 million people. Let’s consider the benefits:
- History was given a classic example of evil, giving us the contrast we needed to understand goodness and avoid the same mistakes in the future
- So many people were wiped out that large areas of cultivated land returned to forest, eliminating a huge amount of carbon from the atmosphere, making Khan the greenest mass murderer of all time
- With 10% of the global population eliminated, there was more food, water and housing for the other 90%
- How many untalented, unemployable, ugly and generally annoying people were removed from the baby making process?
- Future science fiction fans would enjoy a classic name for a future Star Trek villain
I think I speak for everyone when I say, “Thanks, Genghis! We owe you one.”
Did Paul realize when he wrote the Romans that he was supporting the emperors that were persecuting and killing them? Was he telling these early believers to just line up in front of the coliseum? How could this be the will of God?
Peter seems to share Paul’s madness.
Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. I Peter 2:13-14
Is Peter really calling this bloodthirsty, pagan emperor and his minions an army of righteousness? He can’t be serious.
When I was taught this concept as a young believer, I was told that we were supposed to obey our authorities—parents, teachers, principals, police officers, governors and presidents—as long as they were consistent with God’s laws. If not, we could resist them, like Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King Jr, Moses and all the prophets of Israel.
Not a bad rule of thumb, but where is the verse to support it? In this context, Paul seems to be telling the Romans to obey a tyrant. And he said the same thing to Timothy and Titus in separate letters.
Taking all of these passages together, however, and understanding the circumstances of the early Christians, we can get some clarity about what Paul and Peter were saying. And from that, I think we can best consider how to apply these verses to ourselves.
The role of all human governments:
No human government is established to promote chaos. We don’t need the Ten Commandments to convince governors that it is not a good idea for people to just break into each other’s houses and take whatever they want, or rape and pillage throughout the neighborhood, or drive at any speed they want in any state of inebriation, or start shooting people they disagree with.
Nations have jails for a reason. And they tend to populate those jails with people that promote social chaos. In this way, all human governments are servants of God, working toward a state of peace and community.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Gal. 5:22-23
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. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Rom. 13:3-6
Clearly Paul is talking about God’s ordination of the role of governments in general, not specific tyrants that use their position for cruel and selfish gains. And we all know that Paul was not the only reputable person in the Bible to encourage believers to pay their taxes.
The reputation of believers:
Jesus did not come to start a political revolution, as the Jew were anticipating, but to initiate a spiritual kingdom that could work in and alongside the human governments of the world. He was not exactly apolitical, but he certainly prioritized inner, lasting change over external chaos management programs, as important as these are.
Paul and Peter encouraged Christians to follow the law of land while pursuing life in the Spirit. This way, Christians could not be accused of trying to lead a political revolution, which would only encourage negative attention and retaliation, getting the movement off track and off focus.
Also, how could Christians maintain their claims of being a community of love, peace and positive change if they were too busy storming the castle? How could they replace a human emperor with an invisible, ascended King? How could they replace a human government with the living and active laws of the indwelling Spirit of God?
While we should always do what we can to build the best possible world, we should also be careful how we go about it.
Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor. I Peter 2:17
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. I Tim. 2:1-4