July 4, Read The Constitution, And Read Romans 13

We just completed the holiday where Americans celebrate the birth of the nation. In some ways it is a strange celebration. Many people celebrate patriotism to the country at the same time that they continue to act rebelliously toward the government. I guess that’s just people.

My typical recommendation, especially for Americans, is to take a few minutes to actually read the US Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. Many people talk like they know these, but they certainly don’t. I’d also recommend reading The Federalist Papers. Really smart people wrote those.

But then there are Paul’s thoughts on government.

Romans 13 has been one of the most difficult passages for me to comprehend. My formative years involved the injustices perpetrated by our various governments toward black people and other minorities. Then add getting involved in reckless adventurism of foreign wars, and I was not a proponent of the goodness of government.

My attitude was, and remains, peace and justice. And our governments in the 50s and 60s did not practice that.

But Paul wrote that we must be subject to governments. He firmly believed that governments were ordained by God to provide law and order to society. He himself proudly proclaimed his Roman citizenship as well as his citizenship in God’s kingdom.

I find it interesting that, given his Jewish background, he never advocated that the church also serve as the government. He seemed to be comfortable living in the various tensions of the day—Christ-follower, subject to government, living in a multi-cultural environment.

Governments do have a role. While thinking about this post I happened skim the Wall Street Journal. There is the crisis in Greece where a government has promised much and now does not have the money to pay for it. Huge debt in Puerto Rico. The Dominican Republic government figuring out how to deal with its Haitian neighbors who sought refuge there. Middle Eastern governments dealing with extremists. Eastern European governments dealing with Russia. Southeast Asia governments dealing with China.

There are people who think all these problems are easy, but they are not. And we need our governments to sort things out.

People such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses sect see government as idolatry. But they must have missed the first part of Romans 13.

Christ-followers have an obligation to obey the governments who are performing their God-ordained function. Of course, tyrannies, corruption, injustice, evil are not to be tolerated. In which case it is our obligation to work for peace and justice for all.

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