I rarely send out a second Note from Pastor J R during the same week. However, I received a request from a Covenant member asking me to explain the following passage. I thought some of you might be interested in my response.
Romans 13:1-4, Common English Bible, “Every person should place themselves under the authority of the government. There isn’t any authority unless it comes from God, and the authorities that are there have been put in place by God. ²So anyone who opposes the authority is standing against what God has established. People who take this kind of stand will get punished. ³ The authorities don’t frighten people who are doing the right thing. Rather, they frighten people who are doing wrong. Would you rather not be afraid of authority? Do what’s right, and you will receive its approval. 4 It is God’s servant given for your benefit. But if you do what’s wrong, be afraid because it doesn’t have weapons to enforce the law for nothing. It is God’s servant put in place to carry out his punishment on those who do what is wrong.”
This passage is telling Christians we are to subject ourselves to the civil laws of society. Paul’s intent is to let Christians know that the authority of the government is there by the allowance of God so that there is order in our society. If you break the law, you pay the price. God allows every government for the maintenance of order in society. However, that does NOT mean that all governments fulfill God’s will in how they should govern their citizens.
For us in the United States, our government has a Constitution which allows us as citizens, freedom of speech, assembly and worship. Using those freedoms in response to unjust governmental actions is not a violation of Romans 13:1-3.
Also, we need to remember that Paul’s teachings in Romans 13 is not equal to Jesus’ teachings in the gospels. Jesus’ teachings are preeminent to all other teachings in the Bible. For example, in Matthew 25, Jesus tells us that as His followers, we are to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, cloth the naked, visit the sick and prisoners, and to welcome among us the stranger (which includes immigrants and those different from us).
Hebrews 13:2 tells us “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.” So, when the government and its officials advocates policies, programs and speech that violates these commands of Jesus and God, we are to obey God rather than humans. In the United States, in doing so through our rights given by the constitution, it is not a violation of obeying the laws of the land when we do it; because part of our laws give us as citizens, freedom of speech, assembly and expression.