Romans: Day 32

Christian Duty

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Today's Text: Romans 13:1-14, Daniel 2:19-23, Hebrews 11:32-40

Scripture Reading: Romans 13:1-14, Daniel 2:19-23, Hebrews 11:32-40

The Bible is filled with the stories of people who have defied authority. Moses stood up to Pharaoh then led the Israelites out of Egypt. Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego all refused to worship any other god but Yahweh—and were then thrown into the lions’ den and fiery furnace, respectively. (Spoiler alert: God saved them all, and for His glory.)

Stephen defied the ruling Jewish Council, preached the gospel of Jesus, and was stoned to death for it. Paul and other apostles were martyred by the Roman government during the persecution of Christians.

And yet this same Paul, who likely later died at the hands of his government, urges believers to honor and respect those in authority. Paul—who knew many examples throughout Jewish history of standing up to corrupt rulers—says to obey, seemingly without question. What are we to make of this?

Of course, it’s natural to wonder, What if the government was urging murder, stealing, or some other form of not loving one’s neighbor? What if the ruling authorities were, as Nebuchadnezzar did, asking their people to bow down to another god? Or no god at all?

Scripture has given us plenty of evidence that Christ is the ultimate authority in heaven and on earth. Paul isn’t contradicting that here. What he is doing in Romans 13, is laying down a foundation for Christian living—reminding us that our ultimate authority is Jesus. Our first and truest loyalty is to Him.

Peter gives a similar exhortation in 1 Peter 2. After telling the people, “you are a chosen race, a holy priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession” (v. 9), he says:

Submit to every human authority because of the Lord, whether to the emperor as the supreme authority or to governors as those sent out by him to punish those who do what is evil and to praise those who do what is good… Honor everyone. Love the brothers and sisters. Fear God. Honor the emperor (vv. 13-14,17).

Peter starts by reminding believers of who they are: the body of Christ, a holy nation of God that extends beyond borders. This is a beautiful truth for us to cling to as well, especially in times of deep confusion, national partisanship, and turmoil within our own institutions.

Both Peter and Paul tell early Christians to honor their government, but they do so in the context of the whole story of Scripture (and their own writings), affirming that Jesus is Lord over all. Therefore, we obey the government when it doesn’t contradict God’s commands—and we do it joyfully, as a way of honoring God.

John Piper says it this way: “And it is very important to stress that, just as we may have to disobey the civil authorities for Christ’s sake, so all our obedience should be for His sake as well. We never have two masters … Every time we say yes to any law, it should be a yes to Jesus.”

Our every action should be motivated by our identity as followers of Christ and citizens of God’s kingdom:

The night is nearly over, and the day is near; so let us discard the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk with decency, as in the daytime: not in carousing and drunkenness; not in sexual impurity and promiscuity; not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and don’t make plans to gratify the desires of the flesh (Romans 13:12-14).

The Bible offers many examples of what godly citizenship looks like in an earthly kingdom. Let us pray continually that we will seek first God’s Kingdom, listening to the promptings of the Holy Spirit as we engage thoughtfully with our own earthly governments.

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Melanie Rainer is the director of content for JellyTelly, where she writes and edits family spiritual formation resources. She is a graduate of Covenant Theological Seminary, a passionate home baker, and makes her always-messy home with her husband, Price, and their delightful daughter, Ellie, near historic downtown Franklin, Tennessee.

  • Praying to seek the kingdom of God first and uphold our Christian Duties to Love one another. To our nation and its leaders I pray for their shortcomings because no one is perfect. We have to support our leaders. There are always going to be things we disagree with and let’s face it, social media now days do nothing to support anything positive anymore. So pray pray pray. God is in control and he deserves the Glory

  • Kristen Clegs

    One day, I was in a group of people who were tossing around political jokes aimed at specific leaders; then someone quietly interposed:
    “If we pray for our leaders as often as we bash them, maybe the situation wouldn’t be so dire.”

  • I think there’s a kind of resistance of authority that comes from a place of self-absorption and rebellion, for sure. I think it’s a heart issue. And I appreciate conviction people might have over destructive, rebellious complaining or similar activities. Let the Spirit search your heart and mind, the words of your mouth, the meditations of your heart, to ensure they are pleasing in His sight.

    But, and I think this is important or I wouldn’t bother saying it, I would encourage us all to be very careful about how we apply our own personal heart convictions to the work people are doing right now to bring issues to light and seek justice in the context of our current administration. Did God let Trump become president? Of course. But to draw anything further from that is not in line with the totality of scripture or history. God let a lot of truly terrible, reckless, destructive people take leadership roles at various times for various reasons, including to reveal the brokenness of the people.

    I don’t claim to know everything about everything, but I’m very concerned about the sold out alignment of some parts of the evangelical white church with certain politicians and political positions–not because I’m rebellious or whatever but because I’m hearing the heart cry of those who have been harmed by the status quo and am responding by putting my voice and actions to standing in the gap. The posture of judgment and lack of compassion from many in the the church has been keenly registered by a watching world.

    I’m happy to dialogue, but I don’t think this is really the forum. I just want us to be careful as women who are seeking the heart of God to step out of ourselves into the context of the larger world wherever we can and trust that maybe our vocal sisters are not necessarily in the wrong because they have things to say about the harm they see being perpetrated by those currently in authority.

    And, of course, as iron sharpens iron, I think we can speak into each other’s lives, in the context of relationships, if we see words or actions that we think do not represent the heart of Christ. And that can be a tough razor’s edge to walk for those of us who do engage in political discussions and activities. We do need that accountability. And I hope we’re inviting diverse voices to speak into our lives so we don’t work out our thoughts in an echo chamber.

    • Brenda Mayfield

      Thanks Beth…I’m African American and the meer
      mention of Trump ‘s name evokes absolute rage in me. He represents all that is evil. Please pray for me and our nation.

    • Michelle

      Thank you, thank you for sharing this!!!

  • Just have to say here that we are to obey the government when it doesn’t conflict with Gods commands and I believe that President Trump is working under the philosophy of Gods commands working towards religious freedom and repeal of the HHS mandate sanctifying life…

  • Well, that solves it. I’m done griping about our president! My daughter is 9 and we have a fun habit of bashing Mr Trump for all his shortcomings, and God convicted me this morning for all those words and thoughts and I’m DONE! My voice will not be one that adds to the already oversaturated conversation around this; instead I’ll act like a christian and smile and pray whenever the presidents name comes up. Lord give us strength to swim against the current and walk in love with everyone!

    • Lara

      Kylee! I just want to affirm you in this conviction! May you be a shining example to your daughter and those around you of God-honoring respect as you honor our leader(s), even when you don’t agree with them. That lesson will go a long way as she grows and matures into a young independent woman who also follows the Lord, God-willing.

  • Thank you for sharing I too struggle with my daily views on politics but I rarely feel led to pray for them. These passages shine a new light on our world today where social media gives us all a microphone to criticize and rebel against our authorities. Perhaps we can counteract these criticisms with words of love and care. When John the apostle was dying he could barely speak towards the end but each time he did he could barely utter a word but he would say children love one another. That was his last words to us
    Love should be our centre point of Christian faith.

  • Pamela Jo

    Jeannie, I also love the imagery of putting on the amor of light, walk with decency and as it says in verse 14, “Put on Jesus “. These are small phrases with a lot of meaning.

  • Thanks for this. After reading today’s passages I had to repent for my speaking poorly of our Presdient. God reminded me that Donald Trump is his son too, just like I am his daughter. I am not exhibiting Christ like behavior when I speak and repeat words that are unkind. Lord, help me know when to listen and when to speak. Thanks for reminding to be salt and light.

  • Jeannie Sandoe

    I really like the imagery of putting on the armor of light. It’s intentionally praying for God to lead the day and accepting Christ’s righteousness is the only way to stand in the light. His beauty shines through us to others we come in contact with throughout the day. It reminds me of the passage that speaks about putting on gentleness, meekness, the armor of God. It is through walking in the truth of our salvation through Christ that we walk in light and sisters the light always overcomes the darkness! Praise God!

  • Amen Janet, well stated.

  • “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and don’t make plans to gratify the desires of the flesh.” – Romans 13:14

    Totally convicted by this verse today. I struggle with buying things that I want but don’t necessarily need. I’m a teacher as well so I not only buy things for myself but also for my classroom. I’ve always minimized this sin but God has been bringing it to my attention lately. There aren’t many nice stores where I live, so I mostly do my shopping when I travel. I’ll be traveling in a few weeks and already I find myself planning out my shopping trips and thinking about what I’ll buy. Does anyone else struggle with this?

    • Brittany

      This is huge problem for me as well! I actually do most of my shopping online. I have my favorite websites I turn to and browse when I am bored or craving something. I have noticed how destructive this can be for me spiritually, but it is very difficult to let it go. I have gotten better at it these past few months, but I still can’t let it go. I’m praying for you, Kristi!

      • Kristi

        Brittany, thank you so much for taking the time to reply to my comment. It helps to know I’m not alone in this. I truly appreciate your prayers and will be praying for you as well!

    • Amanda

      Uh, yes, me! I have to constantly ask myself, “Do we really need this right now?” Because besides groceries and some other necessities, the answer is usually no. :( Shopping can definitely be a god in my life, however, it’s often the first thing I want to turn to when I’m upset or stressed.

      • Kristi

        Thank you so much for taking the time to reply to me, Amanda. I will need to ask myself that question a lot while I’m on vacation to help resist the temptation of unnecessary spending. God bless you!

    • Wildflower

      I’m reading a book called To Buy or Not To Buy right now that gets super into this. Check it out!

    • IAB

      I am right there with you – I have struggled with the same and realize as I look back it is how my mother dealt with stress when I was growing up – although she is somewhat of a hoarder. My husband and I recent watched a documentary on Minimalism on Netflix – although it does not have. God centered theory it led us to do some more reading on this from a Christian perspective. To be in the world but no of the world – to be able to give financially when asked – to teach my kids people and relationship s are more important than things – to have freedom that Christ so desires for us ! I encourage you to read more – God could truly be using this to trust Him more

    • Ann

      This guy writes about faith and minimalism, I liked this particular article
      http://www.dylanfrercks.com/the-minimalist-command-of-jesus/

    • Kristin

      Yes I do! I love to shop, it’s that immediate gratification and I need nothing. Lately the Lord is really laying this on my heart. That I’m looking for happiness in the wrong place, and these are temporary pleasures. I need to find my joy in Him, not in the momentary pleasure of getting something new. And how much more would I be able to give if I wasn’t purchasing unnecessary things. So this summer I’m challenging myself to only buy what is truly a need. And learning to find my joy in Him! I will pray for you Kristi as you try to work this out in your own life. And would appreciate any prayers you could send my way:)

  • Elisabeth

    Yes Janet!!!

  • Amen Janet! Beautifully stated.

  • Love your neighbor as yourself–this is the fulfillment of the law. Let everyone submit to the governing authorities. How I see it;
    Governments pass laws- people vote for laws based on their moral standards–women’s rights, equal rights for all lifestyles, legalism of drugs. We may not agree with the way the majority sees it but we are under authority of our government. Love your neighbor as yourself, THIS IS THE FULFILLMENT OF THE LAW—-so instead of standing on street corners yelling more shame, more condemnation, pointing fingers, why don’t we take a stand by sitting down and listening to the struggles of those we condemn. What led them to that choice, what hurt and shame are they already feeling. And if we sat down with them showing that we care, not necessarily condoning their choices but trying to understand what led to that choice- that’s how we overcome the law that binds our beliefs. Instead of excluding them altogether because they believe a certain way, lets teach them what Jesus said. They are fearfully and wonderfully made, they have value in him. Jesus didn’t condone the woman at the well, he comforted her in a caring concerned way and it changed her life
    THAT IS THE FULFILLMENT OF THE LAW. LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.

    • Eriana

      I love this! I remember gaining a new perspective when I read John 3:18 a few years ago: “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of Godʼs one and only Son.” Those who are not in Christ are ALREADY condemned. Our condemnation is not only counterproductive but also completely useless. It’s like trying to have someone convicted and put in prison while they’re already convicted and put in prison, rather than showing them mercy and leading them into restoration. It starts with gentleness, understanding, compassion, and grace—all elements of Jesus’ method for loving others.

      • Andrea

        We can’t shame or convince them out of condemnation, it’s about BELIEF. Love your perspective, Eriana, and thanks for sharing!

      • Amanda

        Great thought, Eriana! I always say that the Holy Spirit does a much superior job of conviction that leads to repentance than I could ever do.

  • Yes!!! More support, more prayers! It’s no surprise who God has put in charge as he is sovereign over all. It’s best to embrace the leadership and pray for those leaders. God can and will use ANYONE!

    “Our every action should be motivated by our identity as followers of Christ and citizens of God’s kingdom” <— amen!

    http://Www.in-due-time.com

  • JeniaMarie

    I have heard it said that when we pray for our leaders and people in authority we cause the heavens to open over them and they are the able to be influenced by the kingdom of heaven. It is why we pray “on earth as it is in heaven”. When we don’t pray for our leaders and people in authority we leave them to be influenced by the demonic powers that roam the earth. Prayer is so much more power than we think it is. It is our strongest weapon.

  • LivingJoyfully

    For our international friends I imagine that the struggle with governmental wisdom and direction doesn’t only plague the United States. Our world has sinners at the helm. I need to choose prayer over complaining because God ultimately wins. His purposes prevail. And He must be where I place my trust. I appreciated the thoughts on this passage because it can feel daunting regardless of your political position. But God… always back to Him. Thanks, SRT.

  • churchmouse

    Do I complain about my government leaders more than I pray for them? Because no matter what they decide, that’s on me.

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