Romans 13:1–14comment (0)
November 3, 2011
By Robert Olsen
Related Scripture: Romans 13:1–14
Explore the Bible
Assistant Professor of Christian Studies, School of Christian Studies, University of Mobile
Can You Be Counted On?
As a Citizen (1–7)
Being a Christian is more than just a label; it involves a complete way of life. Within the last few years, Newsweek reported that America is no longer a Christian nation. Many Christians seemed alarmed and wanted to fight this decree. However, it should really come as no surprise. The question for Christians in America now is how they ought to live within a culture that is increasingly hostile toward Christianity.
Paul said Christians are to submit to the government because God has established all governments in the world. The Old Testament states how God used nations such as Babylon to carry out His will. God is the One who raises up emperors, presidents and dictators. For the most part, obeying a government does not lead Christians to disobey any of God’s commands. It is possible to live in many countries with laws that do not force Christians to break any of God’s commands. However, what are Christians to do when a governing body tries to force them to do something that is clearly unbiblical? For example, what should Christians do when a government says Bibles are illegal to read? Or that it is illegal to witness to others? In cases like these, the Bible lays out clear precedence. In Acts 5:29, the disciples chose to disobey the commands of the Sanhedrin, which told them that they were not permitted to teach others about Jesus. They replied, “We must obey God rather than men.” It is also evident in the Old Testament when the Hebrew midwives refused to kill the Hebrew baby boys as demanded by Pharaoh. So the decree to obey the government has its limits. If the government tries to force Christians to sin or do something unbiblical, then they are to refuse.
When it comes to paying taxes, Paul said Christians are to do it. This mimics Jesus’ commands as well. A Christian might wonder if it is OK to pay taxes if the taxes are going to support something ungodly. While this may seem rational, one must consider that in Jesus’ day, taxes went to support the Roman Empire, which would use this money for things such as gladiatorial games and even persecution of Christians. So to argue that Christians should refuse to pay taxes based on ungodly use does not seem justifiable. Not only are Christians supposed to support the government with taxes but they are also to give government officials respect and honor. Christians need to be praying for government officials.
As a Neighbor (8–10)
Christians are not supposed to be in debt beyond what they can repay. Paul was not suggesting that Christians should not borrow money from the bank to pay for a car or home. Paul was suggesting that Christians need to be responsible with their money. They should not borrow beyond what they can repay. However, Christians owe each other and their neighbors love. Jesus insinuated a neighbor is anybody a Christian comes in contact with. The parable of the good Samaritan makes it clear that Christians are to care for anybody in need, even their enemies. How a Christian’s love to his or her neighbors manifests itself depends upon the neighbors, in particular, and his or her gifts. Christians ought to do what they can to show love to their neighbors.
As Times Require (11–14)
Paul assured his readers that Christ’s return is nearer than ever before. And certainly this is even more applicable to us now. It becomes even more important for us to live as Christians, as true followers of Christ. Putting on the armor of light means putting on Christ. If we live in Christ, keeping God’s Word in our hearts and remembering that we represent Christ and have the Holy Spirit living within us, then we are equipped to resist sin and sinful actions. This means that we are to reject the behavior of this world. Notice in the list of activities to avoid, Paul mentioned something as seemingly mild as jealousy. However, jealousy leads to dissention and fighting, breaking the unity of the body of Christ, one of the marks of followers of Christ. If Christians behave no differently than the world, then the world does not see what Christ has to offer.