Bible Studies for Life
Billy Christol, youth/associate pastor
Burning Bush Baptist Church, Ringgold
After almost four months, America’s favorite pastime is about to resume. Baseball represents what is great about America. However, this year has been very different.
The crack of the bat and the cheer of the crowd will be a welcome distraction from America’s “interim” pass time… FIGHTING. National elections are building with intensity as racial tensions are the highest in decades. All the while a pandemic is fueling the fears and fighting across the country.
America is at war with itself and the church has become a battlefield.
Each side is convinced they are right and will fight to prove it. Social media, the supper table, and even our houses of worship have become arenas for red hot debate where the rules of civility and decency have long since diminished.
Christians may not like certain politics or even politicians. However, we are instructed to respond with love and actions that honor our government and leaders. Every way we engage in the political arena should reflect the grace and mercy of Jesus.
Paul knew it would be to our advantage to shelter the church within a civil authority. As a follower of Jesus and a Roman citizen, he was in a unique position to see how one can benefit the other. Most of us are in the same place.
Paul teaches us to honor the civil authorities in Romans chapter 13.
Respond to the government with obedience
Americans haven’t been obedient from the beginning. From throwing tea into the harbor to refusing to sit on the back of the bus, our disobedience has led to many of the things that make our nation great.
However, Christians are destined for far more than this world.
Paul “urged” the believers to present oneself as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1) but here in verse 1 we see he insist that “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities.”
It’s especially hard to “submit to governing authorities” who are sinners just like us. Paul then goes a step further to explain “God has established” these very leaders. It’s only logical to question what Paul was thinking. After all, Nero was emperor as Romans were both persecuting Christians and demanding they pay taxes. Showing obedience seems to be encouraging injustice.
In verse 2 we see that “those who oppose it will bring judgement on themselves.” Paul had numerous problems with authorities. You can see several examples in Acts 9, 13, 14, 16, 17, 19, and 21 to name a few.
Obedience does not mean that believers cannot protest inappropriate, illegal, or sinful policies. Even in our civil disobedience, verse 3 implores us to “Do what is good, and you will have its (government) approval.”
Respond with integrity, respect, and honor
In verse 5 we see a twofold necessity for submission. There is the external “wrath” from God that comes with resistance and an internal necessity for a clear “conscience.” In verses 6 and 7 we see a path to submission we can clearly understand: investment.
Taxes pushed the early Americans over the edge and tea into the harbor. King George was fighting wars all over the globe and thought of the American colonies as little more than his piggy bank. The same could be said for the Roman emperors and their attitude toward the early Christians.
Paul saw this as an opportunity.
Even Jesus taught the importance of taxes (Matthew 22:15-22). Paul builds on this and says we should make this investment “Since the authorities are God’s public servants” (verse 6). He goes even further to refer to them as “obligations” (verse 7).
Ultimately, we should respond to politics with love.
Respond to political disagreements with love
Our Christian witness will be strengthened or destroyed by our actions and words. In political discussions, we honor Christ in how we talk. Therefore, we are to display love as a common courtesy and the ability to disagree civilly.
Verse 8 offers an interesting paradox. To get out of the debt of the “law” we must become indebted to “love.” He follows in verse 9 by listing four of the six commandments dealing with relations to your neighbor. While he says “and whatever other commandment” doesn’t mean he couldn’t remember the others. He simply wanted to get to the main point that “all are summed up by this: love your neighbor as yourself.”
Finally, in verse 10 we see the ultimate example of how we should respond to politics as he writes “Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Love, therefore, is the fulfillment of the law.”
The elections are drawing closer and political unrest continues. We will have more and more opportunities to put our obedience, integrity, respect, honor, and love to the test.
How do we respond to politics?
As the church we must love God and others … all of them. Their eternity is at stake. We may win someone to our political cause and yet if they die in sin, their condemnation is sure. Politics matter, but the gospel matters most.
Now, let’s play ball!