Sunday, November 02, 2008

Sovereign God

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 judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. (Romans 13:1-7)

It's tempting to rely on our government to fix all of our social ills, be they education, poverty, health care, etc. And even moreso as Christians when considering issues such as abortion or gay-marriage. But is that really the government's role?

The scripture above was written to Christians living in Rome. Not exactly a culture that allowed them to exercise their religious freedom. But here Paul is instructing persecuted Christians that even the worst rulers are put there by God. How can that be? Because the purpose of government is to enforce the rule of law, and as Christians we are to obey those laws.

We expect too much from our politicians. God warned Israel against being ruled by a king, and there are six books in the Old Testement that describe how well that went when Israel insisted upon one anyway. Their first king, Saul, was haughty and disregarded the commands of God. Their second, David, was a man after God's own heart, but he committed aldultery and murdered one of his soldiers to cover it up. Their third, Solomon, was blessed with wisdom, but he was blinded by lust. And it was all down hill from there.

Ultimately God is sovereign. He uses rulers and authorities as he wills. Habakkuk asked God how long he would allow the wickedness in Jerusalem to continue. God replied that Habakkuk needn't worry because the Babylonians would come and conquer them to work out God's justice. That answer confused Habakkuk, and he called God on it. Again, God said not to worry because the Babylonians too, would eventually fall. (Hab 1:2,6,12-13, 2:4,8-9)

God uses kingdoms, governments, and authorities to carry out his justice, not to define morality. God's Word does that. Yet we continually rely on our political leaders to fix everything, and pass bonds, initiatives and propositions to try and fix ourselves that where our politicians fail. This is wrong. You don't need a loaded Supreme Court to bring an end to abortion, you only need to obey God's Word and not commit sexual immorality or aldultery. You don't need gun control, you only need to obey the Ten Commandments and not murder.

Easier said than done. Especially in a pluralistic culture where not everyone shares the same standards of morality. But keep in mind, the Christians Paul was writing to above were in the minority. Jews under Babylonian rule were in the minority. And their culture was most depraved when they ruled over themselves. Be careful what you wish for.

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