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Exercising Our Rights; Respecting Our Leaders

March 2014
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SubmissionOver the past several decades there has been an increasing attitude of disrespect shown to our elected government officials, especially if we didn’t vote for them and if we disagree with something they have said or done that has appeared in various media. The mudslinging starts during every election year and continues well after the election is over and the elected officials hold office. However, the attacks towards those holding office have become increasing vitriol, and are highly disrespectful of our elected officials. While disagreements will arise and freedom of speech is one of our Constitutional rights (see the First Amendment); showing contempt, disrespect and/or slandering our elected government officials is not. And while we may disagree at times with something they have said or done, civility and respect should always be shown towards our government officials and the office they hold. After all, those officials were elected to their political office by the American voting public.

In Romans 13, the Apostle Paul wrote on the subject of submitting to the governing authorities specifically in the first seven verses. Let’s read the entire chapter (14 verses):

Submission to Governing Authorities

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.

This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

Love Fulfills the Law

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

The Day Is Near

And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.

Emperors ruled the Roman Empire during Paul’s lifetime and at the time he wrote Roman 13 (see a timeline of the Apostle Paul’s life at this link). It should be noted that Paul was a Roman citizen which is important to know as Roman citizens had specific rights that included the right to “vote, standing for public office, rights in private law, and the right of appeal. Duties included military service, taxation, billetting troops, and various civic responsibilities” as opposed to people living in the Roman Empire who were not Roman citizens (quote source from article titled, “The Apostle Paul’s exercise of his rights as a Roman Citizen as recorded in the book of Acts,” in The Evangelical Quarterly–a PDF file available at this link). This article contains a lengthy discussion of the system of government in place at that time as well as how Paul exercized his rights under that government when his rights had been violated as they frequently were by the Jewish religious establishment whose false claims landed Paul in prison on numerous occasions.

Nelson Mandela quoteIt should be noted that Paul was always very respectful to the authorities in which he had to give an account when he was falsely accused by the Jewish religious establishment and put in jail or suffered punishment at their hands. But he was also bold to state the facts of his case in each and every instance. I wrote about Paul’s experience while in prison when he had to go before several different authorities near the end of his life–the first authority was Felix, a Roman procurator, who was succeeded by Porcius Festus, and extending all the way up to King Agrippa and Bernice–in my blog post titled, Don’t Put It Off.” The complete story can be read in Acts 24-28.

As we can see from reading Paul’s instructions to the Roman Christians regarding submission to the governing authorities (Romans 13:1-7)–and hence, to Christians everywhere today–he is writing to explain why we as Christians should be in submission to our governing authorities as “there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God” (v. 1). He goes on to state that “whoever rebels against the authority are rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves” (v. 2). Paul states in verse 3a, “For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority?” And he answers his question by stating, Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer” (vv. 3b-4).

In other words, we are to “do what is right” in order to be commended and not do what is wrong. And this is how we should live on a daily basis, being subject to the governing authorities. As Paul stated, if we rebel against them, it will bring punishment on the wrongdoers. This, of course, is not a matter of individual rights being violated by others as in Paul’s case when the religious establishment of his day gave false testimony about him in order to put him in prison, and when he defended himself against those false allegations of his accusers again and again in front of the governing authorities. As a Roman citizen it was his right to defend himself against those false allegations and he did so with respect towards those governing authorities all the way up to King Agrippa.

The main point of Romans 13:1-7 is that if we rebel against the governing authorities when no other issue is involved (such as the violation of one’s rights which is not a matter of rebelling but of defending oneself against false allegations) but because we disagree with their authority, that is when we can bring wrath and punishment on ourselves. And rebelling can entail a variety of things, such as lying to governing authorities and trying to discredit them and their authority over us. As verse 7 states, “Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.”

As we continue on through the few remaining verses in Romans 13, verses 8-10 state:

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

Love does no harm to a neighbor . . . . Giving false testimony to a governing authority against someone who has done no harm to anyone in order to discredit them is rebelling against that authority by lying to them about that person with the intent to cause great harm to that person who was falsely accused. Such discrediting will not go unpunished according to Romans 13:1-7.

The remaining verses of Romans 13 (verses 11-14) state the following:

And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.

The hour has already come for us to wake up from our slumber. “So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light” . . . .

“Let us behave decently . . . 

“And clothe ourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ . . .

“As the day is almost here” . . . .

Regarding respecting and submitting to governing authorities, read The Presidents Club
Regarding exercising our rights as citizens, read Threats to Liberty
Regarding remaining silent or lying in the face of evil, read When Silence is Not Golden

YouTube Video: “Amazing Grace” by The Crabb Family Live at Brooklyn Tabernacle:

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