When can we question Romans 13?

ROMANS 13:1-7 (NKJV) —  13 Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.

I pose this question to my Christian readers out there in light of an increasingly, unsettling trend we’re seeing every day.  Most recently, an incident took place, practically in my backyard, that’s drawing national attention concerning an overzealous (now former) cop trying to control a mob at a graduation pool part in McKinney, TX.  Nothing like the next town over making national headlines for something as ugly as this.

So I ask, are we ever to challenge authority, particularly government authority?  Do we have the moral right to do so?  Has God given us clear instruction in Romans 13 to simply trust and obey our government at all cost?  Never question the police or military or a government agency?  Just obey?

I’ve asked, and been asked, this line of questioning on social media at length.  What’s shocking to me is how quickly neo-cons, Right Wing Conservatives, and many Christians will jump to defend blanket obedience.  

Yes, obey.  Always.  Period.

It’s their knee jerk reaction when you point out things like the growing number of altercations between the Police/Law Enforcement Officers (LEOs) and citizens.  Even before any facts are disseminated or witness accounts are publicized, these folks will usually approach any dispute with this line of thinking —

Did the accused obey the LEO’s instructions?  No?  Then they got what they deserved.

This line of reasoning can easily spill over then to things like our foreign policy / global police force and waging decades of endless wars.  This could be used to justify taxation of any amount, for any purpose, deemed necessary by the State.  It apparently empowers the State, and anyone acting under the umbrella authority of the State, with divine calling and justification.

If you hold that Romans 13 does in fact communicate this unquestioned obedience, let’s unpack a couple Biblical and contemporary scenarios to test it against that lens.

Consider the actions of Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (aka Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego).  These were men taken captive but ultimately elevated within the king’s court.  They were blessed by God with wisdom, understanding, and prophecy.  Despite being given literally the royal treatment, they would not bow or worship anyone / anything other than God.  Did they dishonor God by disobeying their earthly rulers?  Of course not.  In fact, God blessed and protected them against fiery furnaces and a den of hungry lions.

“Yeah, that’s Old Testament”, you may be saying.  “What about something in the NT?”  Look no further than Peter and the apostles throughout the book of Acts, but particularly Peter’s response to a government decree to stop preaching the gospel of Christ (Acts 5:27-29).

27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest asked them, 28 saying, “Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man’s blood on us!”  29 But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men.

Was Peter violating God’s ordained ruling class?  Of course not.  The point is that clearly, there are multiple examples throughout the Scriptures that hold Christians accountable to live peaceably with the governing authorities, but also to stand firm on God’s laws rather than blindly obeying the government placed in charge.  How many apostles were martyred, imprisoned and beaten for disobeying the government?

Now I’ve been told that there are NO such examples today, particularly in the comforts of the United States, of government requiring us to violate God’s law.  All our laws and rulers are legit and thus, we must obey without question.

So let’s look at the last 240 years of US History.  Our nation was born in an act of rebellion.  In 1776, we declared independence from a tyrant.  We claimed sovereign authority over our God-given rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  Not only that, but about 3 years prior, Samuel Adams and the Sons of Liberty dumped British tea into Boston Harbor in an act of protest over taxation.

I would venture to bet that many of these neo-cons and right wingers that are pushing Total Allegiance and Obedience to the law / LEOs applauded our Declaration of Independence and the Boston Tea Party.  In fact, many of them have even taken on that name as a political group.

Speaking of allegiance, how does a professing Christian reconcile Pledging Allegiance to a Flag or to the Republic for which it stands when Scripture clearly instructs us to only pledge allegiance to Christ.  Not Christ then country.  Christ.  Period.

Can you have pride in your town, neighborhood, region or homeland?  I suppose.  Can you be thankful you live here vs. another place on earth that is not as prosperous or not as mildly tolerant of your faith?  I don’t see why not.  But pledging ALLEGIANCE?  Beware, Christians.

Exodus 20:1-6 (NKJV) —

And God spoke all these words, saying:

Look at some of the other events over the last couple centuries in the US.  Slavery and Jim Crow laws, alcohol prohibition, inter-racial marriage prohibition, conscription, welfare / medicaid, taxpayer funded Obamacare / abortions, government controlled education (including Darwinism / evolution), and even some places where Sharia Law is trying to be introduced.

If you maintain that Romans 13 does not give you the option to pick and choose when to obey and not obey the government, then you MUST submit to all of the above.  Whichever party wins the election every 2-4 years, you are pledging obedience to the law of the land.

I submit to you, fellow Christians, that we must put Romans 13 in the context of our conscience, God’s Word, and our charge to Love God and Love One Another upon which all the law hangs.  This does not give us license to simply live in total rebellion to government for our own selfish, and potentially sinful, desires.  This does, however, place a measure of responsibility on you to THINK and PRAYERFULLY consider before you simply comply or judge those that call to question immoral people, behaviors, laws, and rulers.

One post script thought.

Since beginning this post, Cpl. Eric Casebolt has chosen to resign from the McKinney police department.  Police Chief Greg made comments to the press that “the actions of Eric Casebolt are indefensible,” saying the officer was “out of control during the incident.”  “I had 12 officers on the scene and 11 of them performed according to their training.”

If the chief, who is supposedly ordained by Romans 13, comes out and denounces a crazed, psychotic rouge gun, how can there STILL be Christians running to defend him?  Does that not violate your support and allegiance to Chief Greg and the entire McKinney Police Department entrusted under his care?

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