Oppressive. Harsh. Violently Anti-Christian. Tyrannical.
All of these terms could be used to describe the Roman government at the time Paul wrote his letter to the Christians in Rome. Emperors singled out Christians for unspeakable persecution and torture. Against this background Paul’s words about authority are stunning. Given our modern attitude towards authority, one might expect Paul to be calling for non-violent, civil disobedience because of the often severe and unfair use of authority by the Roman government and her officials.
But such thoughts would be wrong and offensive to God. Paul commands Christians to be subject to the ruling authorities. Look at what he says in Romans 13:1:
“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.”
Rather than throw off this harsh Roman rule the Holy Spirit says to be subject to these authorities. Here are two of the many principles that can be drawn from these first 7 verses of Romans 13.
The first principle Paul wants Christians to understand that God is the one who establishes all authority, not just “good authority”. All those in authority serve at the pleasure of God. Anyone can rebel against authority and claim unfair treatment. But, those believing God’s word can look beyond the immediate issues and bring honor to God by being subject to authority.
The second principle is that without authority, even if the authority is oppressive, the alternative is chaos, anarchy and disorder. Without authority there is no stability.
Today law enforcement is under attack. There are some that abuse their authority and do great harm. But, even these individuals are subject to God’s authority and will face judgment. No one is above the law. Paul commanded respect for the harsh Roman authority which was far more oppressive than what we currently face. If this is true, then certainly this command is applicable for today.
The lives of officers are threatened and then taken before our eyes. In the last 9 days 8 officers have been killed. The lack of respect for authority, if unchecked, will bring about increased injury and loss of life. The result will be a battle that will either bring total anarchy or totalitarian rule. Neither of these is a pleasant alternative.
In addition to these 2 principles there is deeply personal note to Paul’s words in Chapter 13. Verse 4 speaks of the authorities as God’s servants who serve for your good. The police and other law enforcement officers are charged by God to bring punishment to the wrongdoer. These people deserve our gratitude and respect. They are all that stand between you and me and a lawless, destructive existence.
Pray that God will protect those in law enforcement. Actively stand up for the officers who put their lives on the line each day so that you can know peace and safety. Are all of them perfect? No. But all of them, according to Romans 13 are God’s servants for our good. May God restore a sense of respect and honor towards those whom he has called to protect us.
Extend your gratitude to those who protect you. Thank God that they are willing to die for you.