Thursday, November 16, 2023
How are we to behave in a world often hostile to the ways of God that work against the convictions of our faith? For many of us, the message of Romans 13 is hard to swallow — we don't like it and would like to change Paul's inspired words.
What do we do when our government passes legislation, enforces laws, and takes actions that harm the people of God, violate God's principles, and disregard God's values? While many of us in the Western world are increasingly concerned about the godlessness we see in our cultures, many other believers face opposition, persecution, and martyrdom. A passage like this is one we would prefer to ignore!
God does not let us off the hook so easily. The early disciples faced immediate opposition and persecution in Jerusalem from the same groups responsible for crucifying Jesus. By the mid-first century, regional groups and some Roman emperors began to impose harsh punishment for following Jesus and confessing anyone as Lord but Caesar. By the end of the first century, several Roman emperors had done horrible things to humiliate and eliminate Christians. Paul wrote his words in this context! He would ultimately be martyred by the Roman state. 
The consistent teaching and example from Jesus, Peter, and Paul demonstrated that we should be good citizens, respect our government, and honor the state's laws as long as they did not violate God's standards of righteousness and morality.  The letter of 1 Peter addressed believers on the cusp of major persecution and calls them to honor the government  and make sure that if they suffer, they suffer because they had done good and godly things.  Peter's goal for them was to live exemplary lives before their critics and adversaries so that they would have an opportunity to share the reason for their hope in Jesus "gently and respectfully. Keep your conscience clear." 
There was a limit to obeying the powers that be. Jesus made clear that we should honor the requirements of our government but must honor God most of all. We are to "give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God."  As Peter once said:
"Do you think God wants us to obey you rather than him? We cannot stop telling about everything we have seen and heard." 
When the apostle Paul faced punishment for his faith, he acted honorably in every situation while using his Roman citizenship to ensure every protection available to him under the law.  Believers don't back down when facing threats from the government. They act honorably, use the law to protect themselves when possible, and hold onto their faith passionately. If they suffer, they rejoice for suffering honorably for the name of Jesus  while demonstrating their faith and hope in Jesus. 
We offer our loyalty and allegiance first to God. He wants us to behave honorably to the government under which we live. When the two conflict, our responsibility is explicit: Honor God above all other authorities and at any cost. Act as honorably as we can toward the government. All the while, we seek to live to help others see the goodness of God behind our actions. And if we must suffer, make sure we suffer for doing what is right and honorable in the sight of God!
Holy and righteous Father, I struggle with some things my nation's authorities decide, legalize, enforce, demand, and legislate. I pray for Your wisdom as I decide my actions as a responsible citizen of my country while seeking to be faithful to the Kingdom of heaven as a follower of Jesus. I do not want to cause trouble or influence others to stumble. Neither do I want to crumble under political or social pressure. I want to answer my detractors with gentleness, respect, and conviction. Lord Jesus, You and the apostle Paul are my examples. I am also asking for the Holy Spirit to guide me to demonstrate my primary allegiance to You and Your Kingdom above all human allegiances while trying to be respectful of my country's laws. I ask for Your help, O God, in Jesus' name. Amen.
Together in Christ is a daily devotional that focuses on what Scripture teaches about godly living in relationships.
'Together in Christ' is written by Phil Ware.
Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
Archived Facebook Comments