Romans 13 (NRSV)
In the summer of 386, a young man wept in the backyard of a friend. He knew that his life of sin and rebellion against God was killing him, leaving him empty; but he just couldn’t find the strength to make a final, real decision for Jesus Christ. As he sat, he heard some children playing a game and they called out to each other these words: “Take up and read! Take up and read!” Thinking God had a message to him through the words of the children, he picked up a scroll laying nearby opened it and began to read: not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires (Romans 13:13b-14). He didn’t read any further; he didn’t have to. Through the power of God’s word, Augustine had the faith to entrust his whole life to Jesus Christ at that moment.
Being Subject to Authorities
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. 2Therefore whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.
Since governments have authority from God, we are bound to obey them — unless, of course, they order us to do something in contradiction to God’s law. Then, we are commanded to obey God before man (as in Acts 4:19).
On another note, in this contentious election season, are we as believing Christians praying faithfully for our elected leaders? My Facebook shows lots of (I cannot call it other than) ugliness from fellow Christians, some towards Obama and Clinton and some towards Trump. I find that discouraging. If we are praying with honest hearts for God’s will to be done in our leaders, how can we also badmouth them so unkindly? Surely, we, of all people, should be able to disagree with courtesy and discuss issues without calling names. As Paul will say in just a few verses — “respect to whom respect is due.”
3For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you wish to have no fear of the authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive its approval; 4for it is God’s servant for your good. But if you do what is wrong, you should be afraid, for the authority does not bear the sword in vain! It is the servant of God to execute wrath on the wrongdoer.
This has traditionally been understood to mean that what the individual must not do out of a motive of revenge, the state may legitimately do in the pursuit of justice.
5Therefore one must be subject, not only because of wrath but also because of conscience. 6For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, busy with this very thing. 7Pay to all what is due them—taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due.
Later the leaders sent some Pharisees and supporters of Herod to trap Jesus into saying something for which he could be arrested. “Teacher,” they said, “we know how honest you are. You are impartial and don’t play favorites. You teach the way of God truthfully. Now tell us—is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay them, or shouldn’t we?”
Jesus saw through their hypocrisy and said, “Why are you trying to trap me? Show me a Roman coin, and I’ll tell you.”
When they handed it to him, he asked, “Whose picture and title are stamped on it?”
“Caesar’s,” they replied.
“Well, then,” Jesus said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.”
His reply completely amazed them.
Love for One Another
8Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.
HERE, from 1934, is Bing Crosby and “Love Thy Neighbor.”
An Urgent Appeal
11Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; 12the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; 13let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
So write this verse on a note card and pin it up in your closet — a good reminder every morning as you get dressed!
Romans 13:12 (KJV)
The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.
And remember this for night time:
Psalm 113:3 (ESV)
From the rising of the sun to its setting,
the name of the Lord is to be praised!
The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.