Christian Indifference and Romans 13

The Constitution was written to be a simple document that any common man could read, understand and debate openly. Sadly, today, it is believed by many that in order to correctly interpret it, one requires the aid of lawyers.  Although establishing a more powerful central government was vigorously contested by some at the time, once ratified, the Constitution became the cornerstone of our freedom and the law by which the new Federal Government was to be held accountable. Under the Constitution, the United States of America has enjoyed prosperity unparalleled by any prior world nation. The fact that the U.S. Constitution is the longest standing Constitution in world history bears witness to the ingenuity and wisdom of the founders and the principles on which it was based.

As Ben Franklin emerged from Independence Hall at the close of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia on September 18, 1787, he was asked by a woman what form of government the founders had established. He famously replied “A republic, madam – if you can keep it.”  This simple statement could not have made it any clearer. In order to maintain a system of government which derives its authority from the consent of the governed, the governed must vigilantly combat the nature of government to seize every opportunity to expand. The foundation on which each American is authorized to resist government force originated both from the American Constitution and the liberty and conscious endowed in each of us by the Creator.

There is no doubt the Republic has been compromised. We have become far too complacent in our obligation as citizens to monitor the actions of our government. As a result political leaders have assumed powers far beyond what is authorized by our founding documents, with only the slightest resistance. I’m certain our founding fathers would be saddened if they were to witness the modern, massive encroachment of the state into nearly every area of our lives. If early American patriots traveled through time to modern America, I’m certain a TSA screening would be viewed as sufficient reason to forge a massive revolt against the onslaught of tyranny. Surely the reality of a presidential kill list, warrantless search and seizures, and government wiretaps would also meet severe resistance.

In light of our nation’s history and the sacrifice of so many who have died to advance the cause of freedom, it is unthinkable that anyone would suggest that it is not proper to speak out against government expansion, unfair laws and unconstitutional userpation of power. That somehow we are to quietly yield to the onslaught of state is maddening. Yet recently I have witnessed, on multiple occasions, just such a notion originating from the most unlikely sources.

There is a belief among many Christians that man is commanded by God to submit to government’s authority because all higher authority originates from God and exists to work his plan. The foundation for such a belief originates from Romans 13:1-7, Hebrews 13:17, and I Peter 2:13-17.

Romans 13

1 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.

2 Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.

3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:

4 For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.

5 Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.

6 For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.

7 Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.

Hebrews 13

17 Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.

I Peter 2

13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority,

14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.

15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people.

16 Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.

17 Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.

If we stopped there, if that was all we ever read from the Bible, we may very well be convinced that we are instructed by God to live as slaves to authority. What a dire picture. Certainly if this was God’s plan for us he would not have sent His Son who said, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” Slavery doesn’t sound like an abundant life to me.

Were early American Patriots acting in direct contradiction to God’s word when they rejected the authority of King George and demanded their independence? When our countrymen fought against the King’s law enforcers in Lexington, were they too damning themselves? When men stand up for Biblical principles and are willing to risk their lives to see that those principles are victorious, there is little doubt that they are acting in accordance with God’s will for their lives. When men act in accordance with God’s will on a large scale they will be blessed by him. If you misunderstand Romans 13 and ignore the many other lessons in the Bible about how we are to go about serving him, you might very well assume America is founded on evil. Of course, in light of the fact that we have been blessed so richly by him over the years, the notion is laughable.

I’m certain even the most adamant adherers to these verses would not suggest that one should directly disobey God at the request of the state. We as Christians are to serve God first. Luke 16:13 says, “No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” That’s pretty clear. We are to submit to God’s authority first and foremost. It is his will that we honor him alone.

If we love God and follow His leading we are ensured that all things will work together for good. If a Christian is told by God to spread his word, but the government makes speaking the name of Jesus a crime and Christians sheepishly acquiesce, be sure God will not accept Romans 13 as an excuse when we stand before him one day. In the same manor, if you shrug off the God given authority you have been afforded through the Constitution and sit back and allow the freedoms he has provided to be eroded by evil men, you have no legitimate Biblical defense. If you participate in the expansion of state power by voting unprincipled men and women into positions of authority or by abstaining from voting you have no Biblical defense. If you aid the state in controlling the people thereby growing its power and eroding individual freedom, you have no Biblical defense.

God used many men and women who acted in direct disobedience to government authority throughout the Bible. To say that they were not part of God’s plan because they disobeyed man’s laws is simply wrong. Have you ever considered that authority was granted by God to those men and women to defy their rulers? In such a case, any man, including government officials, who stood in the way of God’s work, would have been in direct contradiction to Romans 13. Verse one has two very important little words; “every soul.” Yes, that includes even the government officials. All men are subject to higher power. God made that quite clear throughout the Bible in how he dealt with Kings. In Daniel we read that God humbled the great haughty rebellious king Nebuchadnezzar by driving him from men to dwell seven years as a beast of the field eating grass like an ox.

Let’s look at some examples people in the Bible who acted against direct orders of the government to the glory of God.

  • In Acts 5, Peter and other apostles were put in prison for teaching about Jesus. Even after they were freed by an angel, they continued to directly disobey the commands of the high priest. They obeyed God over men in roles of civil authority.
  • In Daniel 3, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to obey King Nebuchadnezzar and bow down to his golden statue. They said, “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.”
  • In Daniel 6, Daniel directly disobeyed the King’s decree that no one should petition any other God or man other than the king for thirty days.
  • In Acts 17 Paul preached the message of Christ in direct contradiction to the decrees of Caesar.
  • In Luke 3 John the Baptist speaks out about Harod taking his brother’s wife and is jailed.
  • In Judges, Samson, was given great strength by God. At one point in his life he fought and killed many from the Philistine army who ruled over him.
  • In Exodus 1, the Egyptian Pharaoh gave the clear command to two Hebrew midwives that they were to kill all male Jewish babies. But the midwives feared God, and did not as the king of Egypt had commanded and as a result God blessed them.
  • In Exodus 2, The Egyptian Pharoh again ordered that all male Jewish babies be killed. A young woman gave birth to a boy and she hid him in the reeds. That baby was Moses.
  • In Joshua 2, Rahab directly disobeyed a command from the king of Jericho to produce the Israelite spies who had entered the city to gain intelligence for battle.
  • In 1 Samuel 14:45 a command was given by King Saul during a military campaign that no one could eat until Saul had won his battle with the Philistines. However, Saul’s son Jonathan defied his father’s order and ate honey to refresh himself from the hard battle the army had waged. When Saul found out about it, he ordered his son to die. However, the people resisted Saul and his command and saved Jonathan from being put to death.
  • In 1 Kings 18 Queen Jezebel was killing God’s prophets. Obadiah, who feared God greatly, hid a hundred of God’s prophets from her so they could live. Such an act was in clear defiance of the ruling authority’s wishes.
  • In 2 Kings, Athaliah, the mother of Ahaziah, began to destroy the royal offspring of the house of Judah. Joash the son of Ahaziah was taken by the king’s daughter and hidden from Athaliah so that the bloodline would be preserved. Six years later, Jehoiada gathered men around him, declared Joash to be king, and put Athaliah to death.
  • In Revelation 13:15, the Antichrist commands all those who are alive during the end times to worship an image of himself. John states that those who become Christians at the time will disobey the Antichrist and his government and refuse to worship.

We have such a unique gift in America. We have an authoritative, legal document that gives us the right to stand up and speak out in the face of injustice. That authority is God given and as such grants the people of this country just as much power over our Government as Kings once held over their subjects. We have been given the power to change our leadership. That power is from God himself. It is sad that so many use Romans13 to defend their indifference.

A telling portion of scripture is found in I Samuel 8. There we find the Jews crying out to Samuel for a King.

I Samuel 8

4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah,

5 And said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.

6 But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the Lord.

7 And the Lord said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.

8 According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even unto this day, wherewith they have forsaken me, and served other gods, so do they also unto thee.

9 Now therefore hearken unto their voice: howbeit yet protest solemnly unto them, and shew them the manner of the king that shall reign over them.

10 And Samuel told all the words of the Lord unto the people that asked of him a king.

11 And he said, This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots.

12 And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and will set them to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots.

13 And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers.

14 And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants.

15 And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants.

16 And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work.

17 He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants.

18 And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the Lord will not hear you in that day.

19 Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay; but we will have a king over us;

20 That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles.

21 And Samuel heard all the words of the people, and he rehearsed them in the ears of the Lord.

22 And the Lord said to Samuel, Hearken unto their voice, and make them a king.

In verse 7 we get a glimpse of how God viewed the Jews request for a King. God said to Samuel “They have rejected me.” God also makes it clear to the people of Israel what will happen if they insist of being ruled by man rather than God.  They are warned that a king will take their sons, daughters, servants and fields. On top of that, they are told that a King will tax their harvest. It’s clear that God made every effort to sway them from their own demise but they would not listen. They said, “We want to be like other nations.”

Etienne La Boitie, in his essay, The Politics of Obedience: The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude draws attention to the Israelites unfathomable decision to willfully submit to tyranny.

“…let us imagine some newborn individuals, neither acquainted with slavery nor desirous of liberty, ignorant indeed of the very words. If they were permitted to choose between being slaves and free men, to which would they give their vote? There can be no doubt that they would much prefer to be guided by reason itself than to be ordered about by the whims of a single man. The only possible exception might be the Israelites who, without any compulsion or need, appointed a tyrant. I can never read their history without becoming angered and even inhuman enough to find satisfaction in the many evils that befell them on this account.”

It is indeed, unbelievable to think that a people would place themselves willfully under the control of a King. There is so much to learn from this historical example on the importance of liberty? Resistance to government force, in order to protect liberty, is not only desirable on a personal level, but our ability as Americans to shape and mold our rulers is nothing less than a direct gift from God himself. Just as He declared that the Israelites had rejected Him for choosing a King it is equally true that we reject God by sitting idly by as our freedom slowly is taken from us; as the space between man and God becomes ever more widened by our submission to the will of tyrants.

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5 thoughts on “Christian Indifference and Romans 13

  1. Good points made. I look at some things like this: In the areas you listed to “disobey” it seems there’s some re-occurrence with: preaching gospel freely, refusal to participate, and hiding, or deception. As a Christian, I love God’s law (while not able to always fulfill), and His law incorporates all that is good, so any laws that don’t mandate “bad”, are probably somehow in accordance with God’s law, though of course we should object to punishment we don’t feel fitting, for though we have law, we must also have mercy. Personally, there is no law the gov’t can pass or institute that would go in direct objection to my Biblical faith, mainly because I wouldn’t do it (refusal). I love the Samuel verses, puts quite a bit of perspective on things! Those who understand liberty, understand that it is a GOD given right, for it is because of the GOD instilled upon the people, they will morally live in liberty. I don’t want to argue “can people attain this without God”, all I know is that it has not been done yet, and has truly only been done once, a couple hundred years ago (as far as I know, and that is not where WE are at today). I believe that we very much relate to 1 Samuel 8 these days, but to answer your question, I would say it depends on who you are in the story? Are you by chance Samuel? Crying out with a heavy heart in disbelief that the people would want this king? Knowing all along what they are going to choose, for it has been written? “7 And the Lord said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them.”

  2. Bravo! Well said… if anything, I would add that God also gave many lessons on what is or is not OK concerning the behavior of kings (leaders), governments, and societies – which support your post.

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