Christians and Authority

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you wish to have no fear of the authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive its approval; for it is God’s servant for your good. But if you do what is wrong, you should be afraid, for the authority does not bear the sword in vain! It is the servant of God to execute wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be subject, not only because of wrath but also because of conscience. For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, busy with this very thing. Pay to all what is due them—taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due. Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.

Romans 13:1-10 NRSV

I wrote #Purple for Royalty after the POTUS election, and I am struggling, still, with the Christian response to President Trump’s existence, let alone his behavior and/or policies.

I struggled with many Christians’ response to the (re-)election of Obama. There were so many shrill voices full of anti-Obama rhetoric. There was a significant portion that believed that there was a conspiracy to get Obama elected, and that he led (or was a significant partner in) other conspiracies to subborn the US to global authority. Really, it got old.

Now that Trump has been elected, we have exactly the same kind of rhetoric. With Obama, the progressive/liberal Christians were saying that the stereotyped conservative evangelical was deceived regarding Obama’s conspiracies. With Trump, now many conservative evangelicals are doing the same thing toward the sterotyped progressive/liberals.

This is not to pick on either side (or maybe picking on both sides equally). This is about our Christian voices, and devaluing the Christian voices of perspectives different than our own. Reread the passage in Romans that I quoted above. What struck me as I read it this time, was how we treat and respond to those in authority is part of our Christian witness. Let that sink in.

When you ripped Obama or Trump, you are impacting your Christian witness negatively, according to Paul, and that is regardless of which side of the political spectrum you put yourself.

The context, however, of Paul’s letter is definitely different than our own. In Paul’s context, you had the Roman government, which had strict hierarchy in place, and you did not push it; to do so would be to invite death. I am not saying that Roman rule was just, but I believe we can say it was less just than what we have today. Yet, Paul said to be suject and honor that same authority.

Yet, how does this authority work in a republic such as ours? We are the authority, while at the same time we are subject to the authority of others (by the power our vote). How does respect and authority work, then? That’s where the last sentance comes in, “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.” Who is my neighbor…the person in front of you. That applies even when they are an authority figure.