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. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 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, 4 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.5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing.7 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.
Paul lived in a time when Rome ruled Jerusalem with an iron fist. This was not the government the Jewish people wanted, it is the one they had. When Jesus had His ministry, many of the people who believed He was the Messiah thought He would overthrow Rome and free them from the emperor’s tyranny. But He didn’t. When Caesar questioned Jesus about this, He answered,
“My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” (John 18:36).
Jesus could very well have involved Himself in the politics of the day, but that was not His mission. He is the King of kings, and His Kingdom is the Kingdom of Heaven, the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of Heaven is a more supreme kingdom since God rules us. In Isaiah 55: 8-9, God said,
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
In one of the most famous of Messianic Prophecies (a prophecy about Jesus) Isaiah wrote, that the government would be on His shoulders (Isaiah 9:6). Jesus upholds the government, He bears the burden of it as King of kings; He is the ultimate authority. That is why even if we are under an oppressive ruler, we are able to continue to respect and even submit to that leader.
We are citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven (Philippians 3:20) but we live in this world. We, like Jesus are in the world and different from the world (John 17:16). We know who the ultimate authority is and submission to God, makes it possible to submit to authority. Submitting in humility to others, glorifies God! Verse 3 says that our submission to the government and its instruments is good and gains God’s approval. 1 Peter 2:13-17 reiterates Paul’s words,
Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.
It is for the Lord’s sake, His glory and reputation that we honor the government, it is His will. Our obedience and submission silences the fools whose empty protestations attempt to make themselves look good. Even in the most unfair dictatorship, citizens of Heaven are free.
Does all this mean we do not care about justice? No! God is a just God. We can care for the victims of oppression and love them without hating the perpetrator. We love, we obey, and we trust. We trust God to be God and keep His promises. Trust God enough to remember you are not the Avenger, He is. Deuteronomy 32:34-36 reminds us,
“Is not this laid up in store with me,
sealed up in my treasuries?
35 Vengeance is mine, and recompense,
for the time when their foot shall slip;
for the day of their calamity is at hand,
and their doom comes swiftly.”
36 For the Lord will vindicate his people
and have compassion on his servants,
when he sees that their power is gone
and there is none remaining, bond or free.
The Message puts those same verses this way,
Don’t you realize that I have my shelves
well stocked, locked behind iron doors?
I’m in charge of vengeance and payback,
just waiting for them to slip up;
And the day of their doom is just around the corner,
sudden and swift and sure.
Yes, God will judge his people,
but oh how compassionately he’ll do it.
When he sees their weakened plight
and there is no one left, slave or free
Trusting God allows us to love people no matter what horrible things they’ve done or are doing. Aren’t we all short of who God would have us be? Haven’t we all sinned and aren’t we all in need of Jesus for our justification? Romans 3:21-24 says,
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,
So, we honor authorities by obedience to the laws, paying taxes, and paying all the other fees we as subjects owe. If we as God’s people are in debt to our government or anyone else, what does that say about God? How does that make the Kingdom of Heaven look to people? Verses 8-10 read,
Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
Glorifying God is about active and concrete love. If we want the word to see Him, if we want to be the image of Christ, then we will dynamically and tangibly love people. God is love, therefore, we too must be love. In fact, 1 John 4:8 tells us, “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” If we say we love God, but refuse to pay taxes (or attempt to pay less taxes), we are hurting our neighbors, the poor, the widows, the orphans, and the hungry. Are we loving God? We are certainly not loving our neighbor. I may disagree with a person collecting welfare when it seems he is perfectly capable of working, but it isn’t my job to judge him. The lost are lost and as a believer, I have no place judging the lost. 1 Corinthians 5:12-13 reads,
For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”
James 4:11-12 reminds us that Jesus is the only Judge of the world, the government, and the law.
Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12 There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?
God loves Kim Jong Un, the despotic and likely insane dictator of North Korea. I cannot imagine how difficult it must be for the few Christians there to love him and live in submission to his oppression. Would he come to know Christ because they screamed in His face and refused to obey his laws? Wouldn’t it be more likely that he would come to Christ by reciprocal dialogue, acts of love regardless of his deserving it, and imitating Jesus by unmerited humility? We trust God when He says He is the God of Justice. Do you believe Him when He says, “For I the Lord love justice; I hate robbery and wrong; I will faithfully give them their recompense”? (Isaiah 61:8).
I am not a fan of our government in the USA, but I understand God’s sovereignty and I trust Him, so I love the president, the congress, senate, judges, and all the rest of the people who make up the government. I respect them because God put them in office. They might just be part of His great plan.
Yes, the world is “going to hell in a handbasket” that is a reason for us to love them more, not less! The Day of the Lord is coming. On that Day, the work Jesus finished on the cross will be completed for good. We look forward to that day, it is an ending the oppression, suffering, and difficulties of this life. It is the manifestation of the end of sin and death. For followers of Christ it is a glorious day, for the lost it is the Day of God’s Wrath. We can’t be okay with letting things be. We must be about our Father’s business, His will. He doesn’t want anyone to perish but that all should reach repentance (2 Peter 3:9). Will Kim Jong Un be more apt to turn to Jesus because we didn’t care and lived like the world or because we love enough to live as the image of Christ? We can’t just be apathetic to the lost and live as they do. What good will that do anyone? Verses 11-14 read,
Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. 12 The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
Peter said it this way in 2 Peter 3:11-13.
Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
Time is short, why waste it by a objecting to authority? Make the best use of time by being who God has created you to be. Ephesians 5:15-21 says it like this,
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise,16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart,20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Regardless of party affiliation or religious denomination, irrespective of being pro or anti present government or political issues, believers are called to love, we are called to submit, and we are called to live in humility in order to glorify God and let them know that Jesus is Lord and He wants to save them and reconcile them to the Father.