Saturday, November 11, 2006

Obeying the law

Romans 13:1-7 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.

Romans 13 is clear in teaching obeying authority, though it is not the totality of the New Testament teaching on the subject. Peter for example, clearly states that "We ought to obey God rather than men." Sometimes we must make that choice. My understanding is that we as Christians are supposed to obey even bad laws unless they require us to violate our duty to God. Therefore the Christian should violate a law forbidding not preaching the gospel, but obey laws regarding speed limits, riding buses, wearing seat belts, paying taxes, and thousands of others we could think of, regardless whether we think them unjust or a violation of rights. There were probably three Roman emperors during Paul's ministry -- Caligula (or Gaius), Claudius and Nero -- none of whom would meet modern American standards of "ministers of God for good". We must understand Romans 13 in context, not with our American mindset. When Paul wrote Romans 13, the mad-man Nero was probably on the throne.

Such a teaching to an extent probably sticks in our American/western craw and somewhat contradicts our view of independence and freedom?

1 comment:

clinch64 said...

What comes to mind when thinking about this is the Lester Roloff controversy of years back. That would be a hard one to decide upon since you have elements of God vs man, and secular vs religious. Also "separation of church and state" is thrown into the mix.