“Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished.” (Romans 13:1-2)
Paul was able to write these words because he understood that God is in control. It’s not by war, occupation, voting, election interference, lobbyists, news media or social media that anyone is in a position of authority; they are there because God placed them there. And whether or not you agree with the elected officials’ politics or policies does not affect whether or not you submit to their governing authority. Paul wrote these words in first century Rome under Emperor Nero’s rule. Nero was Christianity’s biggest opponent, possibly in all history. He would arrest Christians, torture them, feed them to wild animals, crucify them or impale them, light them on fire, and use them as lanterns to light the streets at night. It is under a regime with this kind of hatred for Christians that Paul was instructing Christians to submit to governing authorities.
We live in divisive times. Today, people take to the streets in protest when they are offended by an authority figure’s comments, tweets, or policies. Christians were growing the early church in areas where the governing force was hunting them down and murdering them and they did not rebel. They simply spread the message of Christ and showed love to those around them. We should do the same. It’s not for us to rebel against governing authorities. The Christian church grew under its most aggressive persecution, not because of rebellions or protests, but because Christians shared the message of God’s love; they loved and prayed for their enemies and they did not stop meeting together. Nothing can stop the church on the move.
Now, Paul was in no way telling us to roll over when injustice occurs or governing authorities try to bend or break the rules. In Acts 16, Paul and Silas were unlawfully imprisoned and city officials tried to release them secretly.
“So the jailer told Paul, ‘The city officials have said you and Silas are free to leave. Go in peace.’
But Paul replied, ‘They have publicly beaten us without a trial and put us in prison—and we are Roman citizens. So now they want us to leave secretly? Certainly not! Let them come themselves to release us!’ When the police reported this, the city officials were alarmed to learn that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens. So they came to the jail and apologized to them. Then they brought them out and begged them to leave the city.” (Acts 16:36-39)
Paul knew his rights and was not going to stand for them being violated. He is not rebelling against the governing authorities, but was holding them accountable and standing up for his rights.
“I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:1-4)
It is not for us to rebel against governing authorities. It is for us to pray for our leaders, pray for our country, stand up for our rights, recognize that God is in control, and respect the governing authority that God has put in place.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.