Romans 13:1-10: God and Government

God erupted with a thunderous roar and cleaved the Red Sea. Fish and seaweed scattered, with the Egyptians trapped in the raging waters. So, God annihilated the enemy chasing after them. Freed from their oppressors and now settled in their new homeland, the former slaves rejoiced. No other god compared to Him.

In time, as is the way of corrupted creatures, disrespect toward God seeped into their spirits. The wondrous deeds He performed as their protector, once so keen, slipped into a foggy haze. Complacent of His favor, their reverence for Him waned. No more did they bow in gratitude but stood defiant, this arrogance leading them further astray, unshaken by their failings. Is it no surprise the Israelites lose their conviction in God?

Years pass. The people glare, with their mouths hanging open in disbelief. A torrent of prophecy spills from Prophet Isaiah. Bewilderment and skepticism soon become scorn as they decry those dire warnings. The crowds mock, “You’re a sour old man, out of touch, and turning senile. Don’t be so extreme. Aren’t you only a street preacher?” Fury blisters and eyes darken with resentment as he speaks of God using the Assyrians to discipline them.

“Listen! God will hoist a banner for the Gentiles and summon them at the ends of the earth. Fleet and fast, they come!” (Isaiah 5:26). The tension thickens. Misgivings and doubt seize them when the spectacle unfolds. The Almighty summons an adversary from afar, leaving them agog.

Later, the voice of Jeremiah shakes the walls. Israel’s leaders turn a deaf ear as they neglect their duties to the poor and powerless. Masters in evil, they ignore “the plight of the orphan” and fail to “defend the rights of the needy.”

What did Jeremiah receive for being faithful? King Zedekiah threw him in prison. No small number threatened to kill him. Oh, and he spent time in stocks, putting up with much mockery and humiliation.

With brazen defiance, Judah and Israel joined with wickedness, scoffing at those who walked with God. The haunting echoes of a disrespectful chorus resonated through the halls of the land. The righteous received ridicule, not respect, reaping a bitter harvest (1 Kings 14:22, 2 Kings 17:7-8).

Despite this, God doesn’t forsake His people (Jeremiah 5:28). So, He bids Assyria and Babylon, whose relentless forces sweep across mountains and valleys. First, the north, and next, the south. Each blow becomes God’s answer to their transgressions. During these battles, God judges these nations for their conduct. The scales balance, correcting those wayward kingdoms (2 Kings 17:5-6, Jeremiah 25:9).

Those foreign entities, too, faced scrutiny. “Woe to the Assyrian, the rod of my anger,” Isaiah writes. “After the Lord finished his work on Mount Zion and Jerusalem, he will punish the monarch of Assyria for his ruthless acts and arrogant eyes” (10:5, 12).

The millennium turns. Three decades on, Jesus stands before Pilate, quiet and still. The governor, confused and suspicious, stares at the mute figure. “Do you refuse to speak to me? Don’t you realize I can release or crucify you?” Jesus retorts, “You have no authority over me unless given to you from above” (John 19:10-11).

How strange. The calm confidence of Jesus takes him aback, and he discovers himself liking the man. Jesus isn’t guilty, so he wants to discharge Him. The Jewish leadership causes an uproar in the court, “If you let him go, you are no friend of Caesar’s. Everyone who claims to be a king sets himself against Caesar” (John 19:12). Pilate senses a sharp chill running through his spine.

Pragmatic to the core, Pilate’s mind churns with visions of insurrection. Memories of past uprisings festered inside him. The aftermath is grim, while the solution remains elusive. The prospect of freeing Jesus strikes terror in his heart, which he believes will spark a rebellion. Off he sends Jesus for crucifixion. This God takes and turns for our salvation.

Truth, more timeless than the cosmos, is the province of divinity. God’s ever-watchful gaze pierces the veil of our mortal pretense. From a humble shepherd to a mighty emperor, no person can flee from his unflinching stare. Every shape, guise, and form of governance flows from Him.

In our world, rulers come and go, yet none escapes the ultimate reckoning. The Lord’s decrees are absolute, His judgment unerring. No one shall evade the Almighty’s universal Law, regardless of stature or might. Let this echo inside you: to Him, we are accountable; our actions, His concern.

St. Paul casts light on the divine purpose behind ruling positions of influence. God molds a creation where He rewards the upright and rebukes the wicked. Heaven’s gifts to govern aren’t tools for tyranny or personal gain but to uphold justice and uplift virtue (Romans 13:3-4). Of course, since we live in a fallen world, God’s sinless designs and intentions seldom occur.

Many cling to fantasies of a tranquil planet, free from the lawman. In this domain of dreams, we don’t need overlords, and fraternity can flourish without rules to bind us. Fancy such a realm untouched by legislation.

A few seasons ago, cries echoed forth to strip funding from the police. This radical shift strove to nurture concord in our communities. The results differed. Crime slithered in, sneakier than a snake, coiling around our cities. Fright and worry replaced the hope of harmony. The dream of a society not policing itself crumbled under the weight of its naivety.

From His throne in heaven, God discerns our frailties. Our selfish behaviors often ensnare us, pushing you and me toward lawlessness. So, God gives those in charge the right to temper such tendencies to help promote order and goodwill.

Consider Solomon. The Lord endowed him with wisdom, enabling him, if he so favored, to reign with integrity and fairness and curb his subjects’ self-serving impulses (1 Kings 3:5-14). Except he didn’t.

Our nation’s agencies, likewise, disappoint, and their blunders spawn a swarm of problems. Take the 2008 financial crash. Reckless loans ignited chaos from lax oversight. Countless people lost their homes. Jobs evaporated, and family earnings fell. The fallout shook the trust we placed in our protective institutions.

Man, flawed from our fall into sinfulness, always falls short. Worse, no earthly rule or regulation can fix this flaw. Well, they may help keep our outer demons at bay, but when we’re alone and unseen, we act not for others, but for ourselves. More than forced obedience, God seeks a transformed heart, not born out of fear but faith.

So, God, the infinite insight from above, chose mercy over might. Jesus, the beloved Son, entered our broken world, not with force, but with kindness. Why? To restore relations between humanity and God, no matter our imperfections. By His life, He showed us unconditional love.

Not condemning us as we deserve, Christ went to suffer death. Jesus stepped into the breach between us and the Law. Nails pounding into rough-hewn wood reverberated as soldiers hoisted Jesus atop the cross. Our Savior’s wounded body bled out as He bowed his head, sacrificing Himself for our sins—and the jeering mob.

The grave did not keep Him captive, for on the third day, He rose, conquering sin and our mortality forever. Now, we can stand guiltless before His Father, with His righteousness as our own.

Washed clean by Christ, we needn’t shy away from heavenly mandates. No revolt or covert disobedience mars our purity when we are in Him. So, we can rush to our devoted Father, brimming with joy as a forgiven child. Cloaked in the sanctity of our Savior, we are citizens of His kingdom.

The Scriptures direct us: honor those governing over you. Why? Love is our motivation. Sometimes, moments might emerge when an elected officeholder or administrator breaks our civil code or the higher Law of God. In those instances, you need not obey them. May such cases be rare.

Jesus inspires Christians to walk the path less traveled, His forgiveness enkindling our compliance, not dread or duty. Released by Him from eternal failure, He opens our hearts to love another the same way He loves us.

God uses governments to foster peace and stability, and our devotion to Him moves us to obey the government He puts in place so we don’t live in anarchy. So, when a family member chooses public service, we can rejoice, confident God will use them to help others. Amen.


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