The Powers that Be
Majestic God, establish Your Kingdom in me. Speak, so that I, Your servant, may gladly obey You in all things.
Read Romans 13:1-7
Scripture taken from the THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, NIV Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Compare this passage with Acts 5:27-32. What principles do you find for helping you deal with authority?
It might seem odd for Paul, in the middle of instruction about personal living, to go on a digression about attitudes to the state. However, this is in fact a natural next consideration, not least because he has just been talking about responding to evil with good. At the time Paul was writing, Nero was Emperor, and he became symbolic of all that was evil for Christians in the Roman Empire.
Moreover, Paul has been articulating a somewhat revolutionary understanding of who Jesus is. He is the true Emperor, who really is Lord over all. To declare that “Jesus is Lord” (Rom. 10:9) is, at least to some extent, to deny that Caesar is Lord. And yet Jesus clearly rejected the idea that the Kingdom of God should be established by political means, and Paul does the same. The revolution of which we are a part is a revolution of love, not violent regime change.
This, however, did not prevent Paul from holding the existing political powers to account (Acts 16,23). If these powers have authority at all, it is only because God grants it to them, as Jesus himself has pointed out to Pilate (John 19:11). This means that all politicians will have to give an account to God of how they have used that power, and we are duty-bound to remind them of this. In the meantime, our working out of how to live (“as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone,” 12:18), means responding with respect and honesty, encouraging those who rule to do so with justice and truth. Government, of some sort, is always necessary, and it is a good creation gift from God. God’s will is that it should reward the good and punish wrongdoing.
Think of those who have authority over you: in the workplace, through political power, or through peer pressure. How well have you related to them? How could you do better?
Lord, I think of those who have power in our nation, whether locally or nationally. Grant them the heart to serve for the greater good, not for their personal advancement.