Romans 13: 1-7

Every person should place themselves under the authority of the government. There isn’t any authority unless it comes from God, and the authorities that are there have been put in place by God. So anyone who opposes the authority is standing against what God has established. People who take this kind of stand will get punished. The authorities don’t frighten people who are doing the right thing. Rather, they frighten people who are doing wrong. Would you rather not be afraid of authority? Do what’s right, and you will receive its approval. It is God’s servant given for your benefit. But if you do what’s wrong, be afraid because it doesn’t have weapons to enforce the law for nothing. It is God’s servant put in place to carry out his punishment on those who do what is wrong. That is why it is necessary to place yourself under the government’s authority, not only to avoid God’s punishment but also for the sake of your conscience. You should also pay taxes for the same reason, because the authorities are God’s assistants, concerned with this very thing. So pay everyone what you owe them. Pay the taxes you owe, pay the duties you are charged, give respect to those you should respect, and honor those you should honor.

This scripture makes me nervous. Why? Because this is one of those scriptures that get people up in arms. Does this mean that every person, even an evil leader that is power is there because of God? Do we have to obey an evil leader? Does this mean that civil disobedience is wrong?

This scripture does indeed say that every leader that enters power only has been able to do so through God’s permissive will. We have many instances of evil leaders rising up in power through the history of Israel. In fact, God's original design was that he wanted to guide his people, but the people wanted government, the people wanted kings just like all the other nations, even though the Lord warned them that doing so would put imperfect people, prone to corruption over them. This didn't change their minds. (1 Samuel 8). When the people walked away from God and started serving idols, inevitably, they became more given to political corruption, social injustices, and were defeated by rival enemies who forced them into exile and slavery. While this was not God's divine will, because of his decision to give us free choices, we are impacted by the good and bad decisions of not just ourselves, but those around us. So if the people want a corrupt or evil leader, or if a corrupt or evil leader uses their free will to assume power, then God will sometimes allow it, but only for a short time.

I have some good news. If you didn't already know, The United States of America is a representative democracy and not the monarchy that Paul wrote about in Romans.

"It is a government of the people, for the people, and by the people. Through the electoral process, we essentially hire officials to manage our own government. They are managers and servants, but the authority of the government rests ultimately with the people. The health of our government depends on an informed and rigorously engaged citizenry. Advocacy and protest are the tools we use to manage our elected servants. Because we live in a democracy, Romans 13:1 is not an injunction against protest and advocacy, but a mandate for it."- Compassion & Conviction: The AND CAMPAIGN's Guide to Faithful Civic Engagement

The good news is that we do NOT have to be obedient to evil leaders that ask us to do something contrary to the written will of God (Acts 5:29). We have many examples of this that can fall under advocacy or protest.

"Protest is publicly registering disapproval of some action or set of circumstances for the purpose of moving those with power to act. Advocacy can be private or public and can register disapproval of some action or policy, positively express support for a particular approach to a problem, or both. An easy way to think about it is that advocacy is the large body of work done to make sure that political decision makers make the right decisions. Protest is what is done in order to let them know when they have made the wrong decision."- Compassion & Conviction: The AND CAMPAIGN's Guide to Faithful Civic Engagement

Example of Protest: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Daniel 3)

Example of Advocacy: Esther speaks to Xerxes (Esther 4-5)

I do want to say, although it is not a sin to protest, nor to advocate. Please always make sure that the reasons why you want to protest or advocate are biblically founded and that the ways in which you will conduct yourself while protesting or advocating are biblically sound.

Regardless of any leadership we may have over us, good or bad, God’s leadership comes FIRST. So, what can you do as you seek to be a godly constituent when you are opposed to the leader currently in power?

1. Pray for them, pray for those in congress… it seems like that’s not a whole lot, but prayer is POWERFUL, and we can’t forget that. We have seen what God can do with even the most arrogant leader who opposes him (Nebuchadnezzar).

2. If you feel strongly about the state of affairs around you, be intentional in not just voting during presidential elections, but also midterm elections, and elections for things like governors, senators, representatives, school board members, judges, commissioners, etc. Often time, those elections are ignored, but those positions still wield a lot of power.

3. Advocate and protest if you feel led to. Be wise. Be godly.

Being a good citizen should be a reflection of our lives as believers. I know sometimes it can be frustrating, I get it. But it’s what we’re called to do.

Want to see the breakdown of this scripture? Click here --->

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