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Romans

13:1-7

 

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. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 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, 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. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 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.

(ESV)

Calling Government Back

Friday of Pentecost 6

10 July 2015

Civil government applies to everyone equally. I was deeply shocked when it became apparent that the Roman Catholic bishops were routinely not reporting the sexual malfeasance of their priests to the governing authorities. Our system of laws does not exempt the religious from obeying our laws and remaining subject to the governing authorities. The God who establishes the church also establishes civil authority and government. No sphere is without God's involvement, although it is important to say that He is involved with the church in a different way than He deals with us through government in sphere of the this world. He uses laws which are universally applicable and are written on the human heart by Him in the civil realm and in the church He deals with us through the external Word of God in the holy gospel. The kind of message that the church proclaims and that the civil realm proclaims are vastly different. They are as different as law is from gospel.

 

When we transgress the civil law, we may not argue that we are children of God and are therefore exempt from civil law. For the same God who has made us His children in Christ, also rules the civil realm and makes us subject to the ruling authorities. Child molestation is certainly against the civil code and should be universally punished when it occurs among us. The bishops have no right as citizens to exempt their priests from this prohibition and the threat of punishment that impends over those who transgress this prohibition. Certainly, the bishops have the right to hear individual confession and to keep hidden those sins heard under the seal of the confessional, but this is not what we are talking about here. The bishops knew about these crimes outside of individual confession and absolution, and in many cases simply transferred such priests to other parishes.

 

However, today it is important to be reminded that as Christians we have an "end stop" in our obedience to government. We may not obey the government when government requires of us that which would transgress God's law, especially if such a command is injurious to the message of the gospel (Acts 5:29). However, even if we disobey, we must remain subject to government. This means that we must be prepared to suffer unjust punishment at the hands of God's government, albeit a government which may be abusing its powers and perverting God's good will for governing the world. To disobey does not mean that we are refusing to be subject to government. It means that we are calling government back to be what God intended it to be.

 

John Chrysostom

 

"'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' (Rm 13:1). Of this subject Paul makes much in other epistles also, setting subjects under their rulers as household servants are under their masters. He does this to show that it was not for the subversion of the civil government that Christ introduced His laws, but for the better ordering of it, and to teach men not to be taking up unnecessary and unprofitable wars. For the plots that are formed against us for the truth's sake are sufficient and we have no need to be adding temptations superfluous and unprofitable.

 

"Observe too how well-timed his entering upon this subject is. For when he had demanded that great spirit of heroism, and made men fit to deal either with friends or foes, and rendered them equally useful to the prosperous and those in adversity and need, and indeed to all, planted a conversation worthy of angels, discharged anger, taken down recklessness, and in every way given them an even temperament (Rm 12), he then introduces his exhortation upon these matters also. For if it is right to repay those who injure us with love, it is much more our duty to obey those who are benefactors to us. This he states toward the end of his exhortation, and to this point does not enter on these reasons which I mention, but only those that require a person to do this as a matter of debt.

 

"To show that these regulations are for all, even for priests and monks, and not just for men of secular occupations, he made this plain at the outset, by saying: 'Let every person be subject to the governing authorities' even if you are an Apostle, or an Evangelist, or a Prophet, or anything else, insofar as this subjection is not subversive to the faith. And he does not say merely 'obey,' but 'be subject.' And the first claim such an enactment has upon us, and the reasoning that suits the faithful, is, that all this is of God's appointment."

John Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans, 23.1
 
Prayer

Almighty God, You have given us this good land as our heritage. Grant that we remember Your generosity and constantly do Your will. Bless our land with honest industry, truthful education, and an honorable way of life. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion, from pride and arrogance, and from every evil course of action. Support us in defending our freedom, and give wisdom to those whom we have entrusted the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace in our land. When times are prosperous, may our hearts be thankful, and in troubled times do not let our trust in You fail; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

 

For Paul Lodholz, that the Lord Jesus would be with him and strengthen him in body and soul

 

For President Obama, that he might be strengthened in his labors and granted wisdom in his leadership

 

For all those who are threatened by government intrusion, that the Lord would protect the right to free speech and free exercise of religion
Art: Dürer, Albrecht  The Adoration of the Trinity (1515) 

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