Be Ye Doers of the Word

Paul’s work in writing Romans results in his mature thinking assembled into one letter.

He starts with why we need God. He continues with how through Jesus we have access to God’s grace. Then he concludes “If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and if you believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, then you will be saved.”

That was in chapter 10. Not satisfied to stop with the basics of spiritual formation, Paul continues with many examples of how we continue our spiritual formation journey through how we live.

I told yesterday how I struggled with Romans 13 in my younger years. But if you read the first several verses of the chapter you can see where Paul was going. Government is instituted by God to create order in society punishing the wicked and upholding the good. Insofar as government does that, it is fulfilling its work as ordained by God.

The 20th Century witnessed the rise to power of the idea that government should take a much more active role in promoting the welfare of the citizens.

It’s kind of like we transferred the idea of God as the “big vending machine in the sky” as when Janis Joplin sang, “Oh, Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz” to the idea of “Oh [insert name of capital city], won’t you give me…”

Before you jump all over me on a liberal or conservative slant, step back and look. From my perspective as merely an observer, I see people of all political stripes in almost all countries with their hands out to their governmental leaders at every level looking for money or favor. Business people want tax breaks or preference for roads and sewers. On the other hand is the dependency we’ve created with the welfare state.

It is a human condition; not a political one.

From God’s point of view, we should obey that government that provides justice and order so that we may go about God’s work in us for our spiritual formation and to teach and to love our neighbor.

I think part of the church’s role in loving our neighbor is not abdicating our role to the government. When a plague hit Rome in the early years of the church, it became a time of great growth in the church. Why? Well, the brave heroes who governed Rome took off for the hills leaving behind women, children, sick, and elderly. Who took care of them? Christ followers left their hiding and cared for the sick and weak.

Should we work to change governments that fail to live up to God’s work for them? Of course we should. Just look to the example of the prophets. Even Jesus tackled the problem of his local government leaders (the Jews, not the Romans).

Should we work to tackle some of the social problems we’ve abdicated to government? Yes! I know the theology that says that all we should do as followers of Christ is to preach. But I cannot find that theology anywhere in the New Testament.

As James instructed, “Be ye also doers.”

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