Snagged By God’s Judgments

Romans 13:1–2: “The authorities that exist have been established by God.  Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment upon themselves” (NIV).

Observation: Paul’s treatise on our relationship to authority establishes how we who are under authority are to conduct ourselves. Paul assured us that such positions as kings, princes, governors, and magistrates are established by God’s decision. Those who occupy those positions are intended to be “God’s servant to do [us] good” (Rom. 13:4).

Application: Does Paul sound naïve here, perhaps out of touch with reality? Upon reading these verses my mind seeks to somehow set them aside as I remember unrighteous authorities just in my lifetime. Paul had never met Pol Pot or Stalin, Hitler or Mao, darkened luminaries all, so perhaps he should be excused for such inflexibilities. 

As I read Paul’s words I want to run to my reservoir of excuses justifying rebellion. But think a minute. In Paul’s day, wasn’t all authority vested in pagans?  History since then has indeed given us a string of demonic rulers, but the Caesars of Paul’s day were no slouches in that regard. Yet it was to Caesar that Paul appealed to gain a fair hearing of the charges against him.

God created all authority structures, from the drooling idiot king to the alcoholic father and the cunningly evil shift foreman. While I certainly am free to seek employment elsewhere or to move to another land, there is nowhere to apply for new parentage. If rebellion and judgment rule my heart in response to unrighteous authority, I must see that as sin against God Himself.

Flesh screams for justice, but only until flesh has died. My heart cries out for righteous administration of authority from human vessels who are themselves broken. I long for justice from those who are themselves not just. But the Gospel is always about my heart, not someone else’s. It always comes down to a question of how fully I have laid down my rights. I am called to have a heart of compassion toward those who have brought great wrong that I mightn’t be snagged by God’s judgments. God always calls me first to be concerned with my heart motivation.

Prayer: Lord, as You call me to work for the good, cause me to take care to maintain a clean heart.  Wash out of me every motive that would separate me from You.

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