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Christians and Politics: Honoring God Amid Imperfect Institutions (Romans 13:1-7)

Romans 13:1–7 - 1 Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. 3 For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; 4 for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. 5 Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. 7 Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor. What does today’s passage say? In today's passage, Paul instructs believers to yield to the governing authorities that God has instituted for just order in society (v. 1). To rebel against civil authorities who punish wrongdoing is to rebel against God's design (vv. 2-4). Therefore, adhering to laws with upright character demonstrates one's conscience before God, not merely avoiding wrath (vv. 5-6). As citizens on earth, Christians must render obligations, taxes and honor to whom they are due as service to the Lord (v. 7). How can I apply Romans 13:1-7 to my life? In a world marked by division and controversy, what principles should guide the Christian's relationship with governing authorities? These verses offer clear directives on this question that resonated in the first century and remain highly relevant today. As citizens on earth navigating complex legal and political dynamics, we must examine how to walk faithfully with the Lord amid imperfect human institutions. Paul exhorts believers to willingly submit to governing authorities because God sovereignly establishes them for society's order and stability. This fundamental truth transcends particular leaders and regimes. No human authority exists except through God's divine permission, even if they do not know Him. Therefore, our posture towards government reflects obedience and honor towards God. Through civic participation and moral activism, we promote justice while avoiding force or violence. As ambassadors for Christ within the societies we inhabit, upholding righteous laws and paying obligations provides a platform to shine gospel hope. Here are some basic principles from this passage that we should apply to our lives:

  1. Submit to Governing Authorities as Ordained by God (v. 1): As citizens on earth, God calls us to submit to governing authorities which He has allowed to exist or has established. We are to recognize that behind human rulers, God sovereignly institutes governing structures. Even when authorities may not know God or walk in His ways, they still derive their relative power from Him, through which He brings order. Therefore, as followers of Christ, seeking to honor the Lord, we must willingly submit to and obey laws instituted by governing bodies unless submission would violate God’s Law. When governing powers permit or promote clear evil, following God takes precedence. In these exceptional cases, we engage respectfully through moral activism not violent rebellion. Whether city, state, or federal levels, we uphold their legitimacy as those in positions God has allowed. In humility, we recognize that we live under authorities - using the freedom they provide to live quiet, peaceable lives marked by godliness. We refrain from rebellion against them, instead overflowing with prayer. And we overcome any injustice through faith and love, not force or violence. For government stands as a check against utter chaos, though imperfect. By submitting, we actually submit to God’s design for organized society. This brings Him glory as we trust in His control even when human leaders fail to rule well. Our example reflects His grace at work within us (Daniel 2:21, 37; John 19:11; 1 Peter 2:13-17; Acts 5:29)

Food for Thought: What governing authority do you struggle submitting to and why? Bring this struggle to the Lord. How can your example of submission to authorities point people to Christ this week?

  1. Uphold the Law to Maintain a Clear Conscience Before God (vv. 2-5): As followers of Jesus, God calls us to live uprightly by following the laws in our land. Though no government is perfect, upholding just laws reflects God's desire for order, peace and human flourishing. Therefore, we uphold the rule of law to maintain a clear conscience before God. This means we choose honesty over deception in dealings with authorities. We act with integrity whether watched or unsupervised. Breaking laws solely out of self-interest goes against Christlike submission. Additionally, through moral and civic participation, we promote laws that align with biblical values. God gave government the sword of punishment, so when living unlawfully, we should anticipate discipline. Though enforcement has flaws, compliance points people to something greater - God's perfection. Despite unfair outcomes, we endure difficulties through His strength. Ultimately if residing unlawfully, we seek God's will on next steps. Our obedience flows from reverence for the Lord not just penalties. We maintain tender hearts, advocate for reforms when needed and trust God when results disappoint (Acts 24:16; 1 Peter 2:13-14; Hebrews 13:18).

Food for Thought: Is any area of unlawfulness dimming your fellowship with God? Confess it. What role might God want you to play in bettering your community?

  1. Fulfill Your Civic Duties in Honor of the Lord (vv. 6-7): Just as governing authorities derive their relative power from God, so paying taxes and showing honor to those in power fulfills service to the Lord. Though imperfect administrations will waste resources and pursue misguided policies, this does not release us from obligations to fund and respect them. As law-abiding ambassadors for Christ, honoring authorities inherently honors God's plan. Therefore, we pay taxes, local fees and tolls in good conscience before God. We refrain from grumbling about rates or exploiting loopholes out of selfishness. Additionally, we speak well of leaders since all stand as God's servants on earth. Slander and criticism that ignore this higher accountability undercut fear of the Lord in society. Instead, through prayers and moral engagement, we promote reforms when officials depart from righteousness. In these ways, fulfilling civic duties becomes an act of Christlike submission to powers permitted by our Sovereign King. We leverage the legal channels available to deal with injustice while pointing people Godward. For behind the shortcomings of human rule, we eagerly await the perfect government under Christ (Matthew 22:21; 1 Timothy 2:1-3; Titus 3:1).

Food for Thought: Do you criticize leaders more than pray for them? Commit to intercession. How can you creatively honor Christ this week through civic action? God calls every Christian to show due submission to governing authorities as His established instruments for order and justice in a fallen world. Though regimes and policies will vary in righteousness, our ultimate accountability is to the Lord who stands above human agendas. Therefore, upholding the law where it does not violate God’s law, paying obligated taxes, exercising civic duties and speaking well of leaders responsibly honors Christ. We avoid rebellion while exemplifying good citizenship that points people to the hope found only in Him. For no human government can achieve perfect equity or solutions; our hope rests in God's sovereignty and the final rule of Christ. May this passage lead us to greater faithfulness amid the complex clashes between biblical truth and politics. Prayer Dear Heavenly Father, I pray that You would give me a spirit of humility and discernment to navigate my duties within my society and culture as an ambassador for Christ. Where I wrestle with submission, grant me grace to trust Your sovereignty over human authorities. Empower me to stand firm in obeying You first when commands of government depart from Your moral law. Embolden me to advocate for justice and biblical values through legal means with compassion. Forgive me where I have grumbled about policies and leaders rather than praying. Instill patience when I encounter injustice along with faith to endure difficult outcomes through Your strength. I long to point people to You through my example of upright character. I pray these things in the most precious name of Jesus, Amen.

Romans 13:1 – “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.”With His Blessings, Pastor Corby

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