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“Belly Up to the Bar?” Romans 13: 1-7: Key verse(s): 4a “For he is God’s servant to do you good.”



About a decade ago an assembly of Christian leaders came up with this summary of what it means to be a Christian citizen: “It is impossible for a believer to be a good Christian and a bad citizen at the same time. As children of God our responsibility to human government is threefold: First, we are to recognize and accept that the powers that be are ordained by God. ‘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.’ (Rom 13:1) This truth applies even to atheistic human governments unless, of course, the law is anti-Scriptural. In that situation the believer must obey God rather than man (Acts 4:18-20). In fact, when Paul wrote those words in Romans 13:1, the evil emperor Nero was on the throne. We are to pay our taxes to human government (Matt 17:24-7; 22:21, Rom 13:7). We are to pray for the leaders in human 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. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior’ (1 Tim 2:1-3). We are to take responsibility for the right ordering of civil society without falling prey to the idea that it is within our power to build the Kingdom of God on earth.” (The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium, 1994.)


Government, even that of our own nation, leaves a lot to be desired. Of that there can be no doubt. But, when you think about it, if it did not exist the only government that we would know would be anarchy. The only neighbor we would have would be chaos. We would live a life of fear and hopelessness. It is easy, therefore, to understand why God implemented it in the first place. Look at the animal kingdom. While there is an order ordained by God, that order is an order based on insecurity and fear. It’s kill or be killed for the most part. Any animal would be jealous of our ability to be governed by an authority whose aim was to protect and to supply. Should a Christian submit to such a power? Yes, but like a responsible drinker who knows when to quit, so should a citizen be when confronted with a government that offers everything you ever wanted just as long as you bow down and worship it. Government is not to be worshipped, merely obeyed and held up as an example of how God takes care of His people. A Christian who keeps this perspective is able to maintain his independence as a citizen of heaven first and earth second. We give government our respect and fear just as we do that second cocktail or second helping of potatoes; on the one hand grateful for the offer and on the other wary of the indulgence. When the habits of government become anti-Scriptural, we must strive to reform them and us. Government is no panacea for all that’s wrong with this earth. It is but a tool God uses to benefit His people. Government will never be capable of bringing peace on earth. The peace for which a Christian searches can only be found on the streets of Heaven.

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