April 3, 2018

RRC: Do We Have to Submit to Governing Authorities?

Question: Romans 13 says that we should submit to governing authorities. But what if I don’t agree with their policies? What if I think their policies are not biblical? And what if I don’t respect their lifestyles or like their attitudes? 

Answer: You have asked a perceptive question. It can create tension for a follower of Jesus. When Paul wrote this, the governing authority was Rome. The rulers in Rome weren’t Christian, biblical in their lifestyles or in the way they governed. Quite the opposite! The Roman rulers were not only unsympathetic to this new movement called Christianity, they actually opposed it, persecuting and killing Christians for their faith. 

Keep that context in mind when you read what the New Testament tells us our attitude should be toward governing authorities. Here are some guiding principles from the Bible.

  1. We should always respond in love, even to our enemies (Matthew 5:44).
  2. One of the prevailing characteristics of a follower of Jesus is a submissive spirit (Ephesians 5:21). Jesus modeled this for us by submitting to the will of His Father. Peter told Christians to submit to governing authorities, even though the rulers were persecuting them (1 Peter 2:13). 
  3. We should pray for our leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-2).
  4. We should not speak evil of our leaders, but instead be gentle and humble (Titus 3:1-2). 
  5. We should respect our leaders (1 Peter 2:17).

This sounds like a tall order, especially when you don’t agree with governing leaders. It is! But Jesus called us to live radical lives. He called us to live differently. 

That being said, we can thank God that we live in a country that allows us the freedom to become politically active. When we don’t agree, we can vote, we can become involved in helping candidates of our choosing get elected, and we can express our views (as long as we do so with love, humility, and respect).  We can also make a difference in the lives of others every day in our own sphere of influence.

Jesus called us to be lights in our world (Matthew 5:14). One way to do that is with our attitude toward those with whom we do not agree.