Okay, this is the one on which some of you may think I’ve lost it. This is where we try to figure out if we actually look like people who are any different from others in an important arena—politics. If you don’t think it’s an important arena, watch the temperature rise in when the name of the current United States President is mentioned among conservative Christians.
Let’s be straight-forward: it isn’t Christ-like to spew the kind of anger and bitterness at the mention of Barack Obama that usually comes in certain circles. It isn’t consistent with what Paul urges on his followers, whose experience with the governing authorities was far more threatening to their lives and well being than anything we have faced. Praying for the death of the president doesn’t sound anything like the sort of respect Paul enjoins on those first century believers in danger of imprisonment or worse. Preachers who incite their faithful listeners in order to enhance their own standing do not fare so well, either.
Have I gone liberal? Hopefully, I’ve gone beyond labels to think about issues on their own merit, not on what constitutes a party platform. I, like many, have been quite disappointed in some of the president’s decisions. I bothered to read The Audacity of Hope, written by Obama. It contains many good ideas about the process of governing, and some dared to hope the president would conduct his administration in the manner he himself called for in the book. As we now know, that hasn’t happened. His ways have been farther from the outline in his book than were those of the previous administration.
But what are we called to do? Incite? Rally? Rebel? Fill the airwaves with mean-spirited outbursts, join Facebook groups that pray for the president’s demise? Why is it as hard to apply Rom. 13 (below) to our lives as it is ch.12? Is there a difference, or is it an extension of the same idea of how believers are to conduct themselves in a saved and saving way? Let your thoughts be known—but please, oh please, do it in the spirit Paul would recognize as belonging to Jesus.
Submission to the Authorities
13:1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.