According to Romans 13, being a Christian means being a good citizen. Yesterday, we examined what to do when our heavenly and earthly citizenships conflict – Jesus always wins. Today, we focus on those moments when, as Paul says, earthly authorities are acting as “God’s servants.” In such times, we submit to their governance (1) to stay on the right side of the law and (2) as a matter of conscience. But, how does this play out in a democratic society that sometimes promotes leaders we disagree with?
Here, we need to remember that the Christians in Rome did not enjoy many of the freedoms we possess. Instead, they were at the mercy of the emperor’s will. It didn’t really matter if they liked the governing authorities. What mattered was to offer honor where it was due.
Offering honor seems to be a lost art in America today. Just look at social media to see the venom that we spew toward those who disagree with us. How easy it would be to uphold Romans 13 only when dealing with people we like and agree with! But, that’s not how scripture works. We don’t get to pick and choose when to obey. Which means that we Christians need to relearn what it means to show honor where it is due.
Please understand that I am not saying here that Christians can’t critique the powers that be. Indeed, sometimes critique is absolutely necessary to our discipleship. What I am saying is that we Christians can model a calm, honoring attitude to those in authority even when we critique and disagree. What if we Christians were known for our strong convictions and for our willingness to show honor where it is due? What would that do for our witness?