There is no greater witness a Christ-like person can show to the world with how he/she responds to governmental authorities. How should we behave? Paul tells us plainly. Be responsible…God expects it. God will hold us responsible for our thinking and subsequent actions.
That’s why when you get upset at political Facebook posts and you want to respond back with the same venom, but your gut tells you not to, don’t. Obey the urge to love instead. Be the responsible citizen. Yes, you have the freedom to say what you please in this country, but responding in kind, with hate, to make your point, only starts a fire storm that gets nasty and hurts brothers and sisters you are trying to guide to God. Be responsible, says Paul to the Romans.
Paul was writing to believers at the very heart of the Roman Empire. As yet, the great persecutions had not started but were on the way. Christianity was still considered a Jewish sect, and the Jewish religion was approved by Rome. But the day would come when it would be very difficult, if not impossible, for a Christian to be loyal to the emperor. He could not drop incense on the altar and affirm, “Caesar is god!”
In our own day, we have people who teach riot and rebellion in the name of Christ! They would have us believe that the Christian thing to do is to disobey the law, rebel against the authorities, and permit every person to do that which is right in his own eyes. Paul refuted this position in this chapter by explaining four reasons why the Christian must be in subjection to the laws of the state.
1. It is God who has established the governments of the world (see Acts 17:24-28). Even though we cannot always respect the person in office, we must respect the office, for government was ordained by God.
On more than one occasion in his ministry, Paul used the Roman law to protect his life and to extend his work. The centurions mentioned in the book of Acts appear to be men of character and high ideals. Even if government officials are not believers, they are still the “ministers of God” because He established the authority of the state.
2. For conscience’s sake (vv. 5-7). We move a bit higher in our motivation now. Any citizen can obey the law because of fear of punishment, but a Christian ought to obey because of conscience. Of course, if the government interferes with conscience, then the Christian must obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29). But when the law is right, the Christian must obey it if he is to maintain a good conscience (1 Tim. 1:5, 19; 3:9; 4:2; Acts 24:16).
Romans 13:7 commands us to pay what we owe: taxes, revenue, respect, honor. If we do not pay our taxes, we show disrespect to the law, the officials, and the Lord. And this cannot but affect the conscience of the believer. We may not agree with all that is done with the money we pay in taxes, but we dare not violate our conscience by refusing to pay.
3. For love’s sake (vv. 8-10). Paul enlarged the circle of responsibility by including other people besides government officials. “Love one another” is the basic principle of the Christian life. It is the “new commandment” that Christ gave to us (John 13:34). When we practice love, there is no need for any other laws, because love covers it all. If we love others, we will not sin against them. This explained why the Ten Commandments were not referred to often in the New Testament. In fact, the Sabbath commandment is not quoted at all in any of the Epistles. As believers, we do not live under the law; we live under grace. Our motive for obeying God and helping others is the love of Christ in our hearts.
4. For Jesus’ sake (vv. 11-14). We have come a long way in our reasons for obeying the law: from fear to conscience to love to our devotion to Jesus Christ. The emphasis is on the imminent return of Christ. As His servants, we want to be found faithful when He returns. The completion of our salvation is near! The light is dawning! Therefore, be ready!
In other words, a Christian citizen ought to be the best citizen. Christians may not always agree on politics or parties, but they can all agree on their attitude toward human government.
Romans 13, The Message (Part One of two)
To Be a Responsible Citizen
1-3 Be a good citizen. All governments are under God. Insofar as there is peace and order, it’s God’s order. So live responsibly as a citizen. If you’re irresponsible to the state, then you’re irresponsible with God, and God will hold you responsible. Duly constituted authorities are only a threat if you’re trying to get by with something. Decent citizens should have nothing to fear.
3-5 Do you want to be on good terms with the government? Be a responsible citizen and you’ll get on just fine, the government working to your advantage. But if you’re breaking the rules right and left, watch out. The police aren’t there just to be admired in their uniforms. God also has an interest in keeping order, and he uses them to do it. That’s why you must live responsibly—not just to avoid punishment but also because it’s the right way to live.
6-7 That’s also why you pay taxes—so that an orderly way of life can be maintained. Fulfill your obligations as a citizen. Pay your taxes, pay your bills, respect your leaders.
BE A GOOD CITIZEN! BE RESPONSIBLE!
Many are watching….God will hold us accountable.
Thank you for your word that reminds us to be good citizens for all the right reasons. If our hearts are pure then our actions will show it. We all have a heart condition that is made holy by You alone. You are God and we are not. You are ultimately and forever in charge. We are not. Thank you for helping us to understand today. Help us to live as good, responsible citizens.
Transform me. Transform the world.
I pray your blessings of wisdom, insight and understanding be on all leaders local, state and federal. I pray your wisdom falls on Your church and her leaders. May Your glory be seen in all and through all.