Our God has created an ordered world, and his order extends to the sphere of human society. Paul tells us in Romans 13 that God has established governing authorities. Why? In large part to maintain order, especially by punishing wrongdoing. When governments act as instruments of justice, they take their place in God’s plan. Thus, governing authorities are worthy of proper respect.

What exactly is proper respect, though? Modern history has shown us time and again the fallibility of governments, and we have sometimes seen Christians using scriptures like Romans 13 to justify their complicity with evil (think here of WWII). In instances like these, we need to see that the church has never given government a blank check. Indeed, tradition tells us that 11 of the 12 apostles were martyred for refusing to bow to the powers of this world. At the same time, the apostles didn’t oppose government at every turn. No, they opposed governing authorities when they conflicted with their loyalty to Jesus. Here is the key. Jesus always wins out. When government acts against Jesus, we always stand with Christ. When government acts in agreement with Jesus, though, we submit and celebrate it just activity.

In a fallen world, the line between submission and resistance can be a hard line to walk. May God grant us wisdom to balance our heavenly and earthly citizenships. And, may he grant the ruling authorities wisdom to agree with his ways.