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Reflections on Romans 13:1 (Mon)

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Today’s passage:

13:1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except by God’s appointment, and the authorities that exist have been instituted by God.

If we truly grasped today’s verse, it would change our whole perspective. The government is in place by God’s appointment. Barak Obama is our president by God’s appointment.

I remember before the election people were wringing their hands at the prospect of Obama winning. I blogged about having peace regardless of the outcome. Here’s what I wrote on Sept 8th last year:

I see Christians who so badly insist that McCain absolutely must win this election. They are adamant that it is God’s will for our nation that McCain defeats Obama. That an Obama win could only be of Satan. I think that’s putting God in a box. It’s telling God He can only work through the Republican party, or through capitalism, or through libertarianism, but not socialism. Can’t God work his purposes however He pleases? Does God need to conform to our understanding of how the world should best operate? Would God’s hands be tied if Obama wins? If God could raise up “Nebuchadnezzar, my servant”, could he not just as well appoint “Obama my servant?”

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we should be indifferent about the election or that we can’t have preferences or that we shouldn’t vote. I’m just saying that we shouldn’t presume that God’s path must go according to our preconceived notions. I have to consider that God might be voting for someone different than “my guy” because He knows his great purposes and I don’t.

Romans 13:1 says that all government authorities are appointed by God—and that includes elected officials! This is one of those mystical juxtapositions of God’s sovereignty and man’s will working in tandem. This passage tells me that God’s will is going to be revealed on election night—one way or the other.

So after I’ve cast my vote, I’ll stay up late not to wring my hands in defeat or to celebrate in victory that “my guy” won. I’ll stay up late because I’ll be curious to see whom God has appointed and I’ll fully expect Him to use the election results for His ultimate glory and our ultimate (but not necessarily immediate) good!

I liked Bob’s comments about how talk show hosts are quick to belittle our government leaders and how we mustn’t do so because God has put them over us. We need to adopt the attitude that God has appointed them over us — whether or not it makes sense to us.

The government that Paul says is ordained by God was the very evil first-century Roman government. They lived in an oppressive time, with little freedom (particularly religious freedom), and lots of persecution, so for Paul to credit God with putting the government in place must have been a difficult thing to accept.

Yet I’m not aware of any mention of the early church trying to change their government or its policies. They gladly submitted to it — even at the cost of their own lives. Their focus was on changing hearts of its citizens, not the policies of its leaders. And in that context the church was in my opinion at its finest. They trusted God rather than fretting about their condition or trying to change it.

Since we live in a democracy, I’m not saying we can’t speak our values and seek to have them represented. But I am saying we can’t put our hope in that. And that we need to respect and happily submit to whatever government God brings us — even if it were communism — allowing God the freedom to work in ways that go beyond our limited understanding.

2 Comments

  1. Martha Troxel

    July 6, 2009 at 4:17 pm

    You have made an important point. We can’t put our trust in government no matter how good or bad it is.

    • My friend Jim wrote on Facebook: “If you read the previous verses, Romans 12:9-21, it provides a great deal of context and, I think, it magnifies your point. It says later that we should obey the government not only because of possible punishment but because of conscience. Does that also imply that you might have to face punishment even though you are doing what your conscience says is right?”

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