Summary: Give Thanks for Alberta’s Centennial 1) By honoring all those in authority 2) By loving all those in our community
One hundred years. That’s how old the province of Alberta is. Did you go to any of the centennial celebrations last week? Even if you didn’t, you can still thank God for the blessings we have in this province. The Apostle Paul says we can do this by honoring all those in authority, and by loving all those in our community.
The newspaper articles and special events commemorating Alberta’s centennial have done a good job of highlighting the many blessings we have in this part of the world. There are the obvious blessings of rich natural resources like oil and gas, but let’s not forget about another blessing God has given to us – the blessing of government.
Government a blessing? Yes! Consider what life would be like without government. Who would fix our roads? Who would ensure that our trash was collected on time? Who would make sure hospitals were running up to code? Who would keep the bad guys off our streets? These are all things the government takes care of. No, the government doesn’t do these things perfectly but at least it’s doing something to give us order and stability. I suppose we could compare it to how the Italian government spent millions of dollars trying to straighten the leaning tower of Pisa. They attached cables to pull the tower upright and then injected liquid nitrogen in the ground to freeze the tower into place. Although the tower of Pisa still leans, the Italian government has at least saved it from toppling over. In the same way every government spends millions of dollars trying to straighten society. Although it never quite gets it stand perfectly straight, in trying government does keep society from toppling over.
Because government is a blessing from God, Paul says that we are to show our thanks by submitting to all governing authority whether Prime Minister or crossing guard at the local school. But what about bad government? We certainly don’t need to give them our respect do we? We do for every authority has been put in power by God (Romans 13:1).
Wait a minute here. Is Paul really saying that God establishes every ruling authority? That would include people like Hitler and Stalin! Yes, and it also included Emperor Nero who was in charge when Paul originally wrote the words of our text. Nero was the emperor who had the habit of lighting up his garden parties with Christians as human torches! Paul says that even such bad authorities are to be obeyed and given respect. Of course, if these governments should tell us to do something that is sinful, then we must disobey (Acts 5:29). However we cannot disobey or even disrespect a governing official because we think he or she is a buffoon. To think that way is to say that God didn’t know what he was doing when he allowed those people to take power. Granted, we’re not saying that Hitler, Stalin, or Nero ruled the way God wanted them to rule. They clearly did things that were sinful and took advantage of their power. God will judge them for that but we still owe all governing authorities our respect and obedience.
Even knowing that God has placed all authority in power doesn’t mean it will be easy to obey and respect them, does it? Especially since a national pastime seems to be complaining about our government and how life would be so much better with different people in charge. Instead of complaining about our government, however, why not do something to help improve it? Why not pray for our officials as Paul urges us to do in 1Timothy 2? Why not willingly pay all of our taxes and duties so that the government can provide the services it has promised? Why not obey all laws, including traffic laws, no matter how dumb we think they are? Wouldn’t these things make it easier for our governing officials to serve us? Indeed it would, and that’s why God tells us to do these things (Romans 13:6, 7).
Honoring all those in authority is one way we can show our thanks for the blessings of our province. Another way to show our thanks is to love all those in our community. Paul put it this way: “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:8-10).
Paul finished the previous section on respecting authority by saying that we should fully pay all debts like taxes and customs duties. But then he began the next section by saying that there is one debt we dare not say we’ve paid in full - the debt of love. To put it another way, we should never wake one morning and say, “You know what? I’ve been kind to the people down the street long enough and they haven’t been kind in return. Well from now on it’s no more Mr. Nice Guy!” God wants us to know that that’s the world’s way of dealing with our neighbors, not his way. His way is to continue to show love even when we don’t receive love in return. Jeremiah described God’s kind of love in Lamentations 3:22, 23a. There he said: “Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning.” Whenever we wake up in the morning God does not say to us: “You better be careful today. You used up half my patience yesterday and my love for you is waning. You better do something good today to replenish my kind feelings towards you.” While that’s the way we often treat one another, it’s not the way God treats us. And thank God that he doesn’t! Thank God that he deals with us in grace so that whenever we wake up, his love for us shines as brightly as it did when he sent his Son to die on the cross to pay for our sins.