Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Jesus on Authority and Power I

Romans 13:1-7
Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgement upon themselves.

This passage tends to be the primary source for Protestants who are thinking biblically about their relationship to 'the state' and their allegiance to both Kingdom and country. Paul is very clear about the relationship of the Christian to Empire in this passage. Submit because the authority of Empire is authority conferred by God. Notice what Paul is assuming about the political leader(s) 'he is God's servant to do you good.' This particular sentence needs to be carefully weighed in applying the scripture to our lives and world. We could sit and rehearse a list of a number of political leaders who did not live up to Paul's asusmption that the leader 'do good.' Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, could start the list and it could go on. These leaders did not 'go good,' but instead did great harm. I cannot imagine that Paul would encourage Christans to submit to governing authorities who did harm. Pual is speaking for the perspective of expecting the immediate return of Christ. the early church anxiously awaited the return of Jesus any day. Paul does not want this church to be careless in applying this belief of immediate return, into rebellion. the line Paul draws here is a fine one. While Paul is clear about the Christians stance toward governing authorities, we must be clear about his assumptions, that the state be a representative of the leadership of God. Paul, in this passage is not addressing a situation in which the governing authorities fail to 'do good.' It is also a strong possibility, in mentioning rebellion, that Paul holds the same belief as Jesus, that battling unjust authorities was the responsibility of God. Do not rebel, Paul is saying. But this does not mean that we blindly submit when authorities are injust or cruel

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