Summary: Earthly citizenship as defined by Paul
Win - Lose – Draw
I don’t know about all of you, but I am looking forward to getting past Tuesday. I probably won’t be home until Wednesday morning because “ get to work” at the Floyd County Election office until all the paperwork is done. But, it is not the end of a long day I am looking forward to.
I am looking forward to the disappearance of all the advertising; the signs on the road the radio and TV spots.
I think that the choosing of the leadership for our local, state and national levels is a time period when the unity of this country is torn down in broader and broader ways with each election. A community and even the country rips itself apart as each politician picks apart the views and even character of their opponent.
To be honest I tend to want to run off into the woods and hide. I don’t think that I am alone at least in the sentiment.
Last week we talked about God’s standards on love. If you think about it they were very high and almost unobtainable.
This week we jumped into the book of Romans. With the election finally here it seemed like the right time to review the obligations of a citizen of an “earthly country.”
I am afraid that the message is not going to be generally popular today.
Maybe you will recall that Paul was a Roman citizen. That citizenship gave him certain privileges. Court – punishment – rights… His citizenship allowed him to preach in several different settings. The Roman soldiers actually protected Paul from the attacks of his Jewish opponents. The Romans has allowed the Jewish people to maintain their own system of government and religious views as long as the Jewish people were controlled and peaceful. However, Roman rule and law held higher authority.
In our scripture today Paul describes how Christians should view and interact with the earthly government that they live under.
Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.
Everyone is a pretty broad description of his readers. Everyone must submit to governing authorities. Submission is really hard for people to blindly agree with. However, the New Testament talks about submission all over the place.
The submission of the young to their elders,
slave to master,
wives to husbands,
Men and women to spiritual leaders,
Jesus to his parents.
The disciples to Jesus,
The church to Christ.
And here Paul tells readers to submit to government authorities… no exceptions or limits of how far a person is to go when submitting to a government.
I was really troubled by the word submission in our scripture today. To me submission meant obedience.
So I started digging through some resources that helped me define the meaning of the word more accurately.
Let me share one side detail about the word Paul used for submission. He used a word that falls short of meaning obedience.
We might use to word cooperation to help us see the difference. To me that is an important detail which tells me that there are limits. Limits that allow Christians to be against governments that is unjust and savage….
One additional comment would be to look at how Paul and the other disciples submitted to government unless it caused a disobedience of God’s instructions. In each case the apostles took their punishment for their disobedience to local authorities for obeying God. So submission has limits and consequences.
Paul is not specific as to the type of government, democracy, republic, dictatorship, monarchy, communism….. But, he does explain why, “for there is no authority except that which God has established”
According to Paul, no government could ever have authority without God having established it. So God is in control – God created the Babylonian and Roman empires. He allowed the Nazism and communism. He also inspired the United States, Great Britain’s forms of government. They all exist because they have been established by God.
Now let’s be sure that we also know what is not said here. It is not saying that every decision and policy made in any government is from God. The leaders within the government will be held accountable to God for their policies, and actions.
In America today we tend to think that only one kind of government can be approved by God. But, the scriptures are not specific even to the Roman Empire much less democracy.
We like to claim that we live in a Christian nation and want to believe that God will automatically be on our side.
Unfortunately, we can’t find any direct support for that by reading scripture. What we find is that God created government for ultimate good. So good or bad governments and leaders act as instruments … tools of God.