One of the ways we honor Christ and allow our light to shine brightly is to be a person who honors authority. Sadly, honoring authority is a lost art for many today. Romans 13:1-7 is an important passage to me because it speaks to the heart of God regarding what our opinion should be concerning the laws of our land and the governmental leaders who are in authority. While many Christians have opposing views on what is right in this regard, I find it vital for us — especially during confusing times — to return to the teaching of Scripture. It is here we find the Christian ethic of honoring authority spelled out in Pauline clarity.
When we filter this truth through our lives we can live out a personal ethic that honors the heart of God even as we honor those on earth who are in authority over us. It is imperative, as Christ-followers, that we live our lives in such a way that our testimony for Christ shines the brightest when life is the darkest. These are dark days. God is counting on you and me to allow His life to shine brightly through our lives. The Bible, as always, shows us how.
Here’s what this important passage from Romans 13:1-7 says:
“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.”
This passage gives us several points to ponder:
- VS. 1-2 | Paul reminds us that civil rulers and governmental authorities are ordained by God. It is our job to honor authority, and, as we do, we honor God. Rulers are allowed by God to rule and have a purpose to play in benefiting society. (Daniel also alludes to this in Daniel 2:21.)
- VS 3-5 | Paul is writing during Roman rule. Certainly, many Christians in Paul’s day were not blessed by how they were being mistreated by the Romans. And yet God commanded them and commands us to be people of “order.” We live under authority and recognize that honoring those in authority over us is part of God’s plan and also a matter of conscience. We let our light shine brightly when we live a well-ordered and honoring life.
- VS 6-7 | I love the final verses as they remind me of my duty as a Christian. My duty is not to make my own laws or to fight the laws of the land. My main duty is to live out the Christian ethic of love, which includes respecting and honoring others — especially those in authority.
- And let me add one more thing. Praying for those in authority over us is a crucial command given to every Christian. Regardless of political alliance or viewpoint, we need to pray for those in authority over us. Pray for wisdom. Pray for God to move on their hearts. Pray for them to hear and acknowledge the influence of God in their lives and governance. Prayer is what devoted followers of Jesus Christ do.
While I’m not always happy with everything that happens in society, on both the state or the national level, I need to live out my Christian faith. That should impact how I talk to others and how I talk about others. While many Christians conveniently ignore hard passages like Romans 13:1-7, let me encourage you to make the ethic of Christ — the Christian ethic — your ethic. Live to love. Live to honor. God wills it.