As a libertarian (loosely defined), the words “government” and “obedience” are not two I would typically use in the same sentence. In fact, together they nearly make me cringe.
However, I was reading in Romans 13 in the New Testament of the Bible last night, and the Apostle Paul has some specific instructions to the believers in Rome about submitting to earthly authorities. I want to explore the historical context to enhance my understanding of how this passage relates to how we are to relate to our government today, particularly one lead by decision-makers we will so often disagree so strongly with.
While there are many differences between historical Rome and modern America, it seems clear that the lesson can be drawn that we are to respect the place given to governmental authorities. I expect to develop this topic in future posts, but for now, here’s the scripture:
13:1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.
3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.
5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing.
7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.