Day 30

Love, Our Primary Duty

from the Romans reading plan

Romans 13:1-14, John 13:34-35, Hebrews 13:15-17

BY Melanie Rainer

The Bible is filled with the stories of people who have defied authority. Moses stood up to Pharaoh and 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 the fiery furnace, respectively. 

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 (Romans 13:1–7). 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 Christ. Our first and truest loyalty is to Him. 

This is a beautiful truth for us to cling to, especially in times of deep confusion, national partisanship, and turmoil within our own institutions. 

Paul tells early Christians to honor their government, but they do so in the context of the whole story of Scripture (and his 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. 

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 make no plans for the flesh to gratify its desires. 
—Romans 13:12–14

The Bible offers many examples of godly citizenship 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. 

Post Comments (48)

48 thoughts on "Love, Our Primary Duty"

  1. Chelsea Wilson says:

    Thank you Melanie Rainer for a beautiful written devotion. There are many areas of perceived ‘contradictions’ in the Bible. This happens when we take a bible passage out of context. Our devotion today didn’t shy away from the discrepancies, but faced them head on! I appreciate that because if I would have read our bible passage alone today I would be feeling guilty for the authority in government that I have a difficult time respecting due to corruption. However, it always goes back to God as our ultimate authority! I needed the reminder that God does place people in the position of authority, and also let’s not forget that each person is Gods own creation! We are to treat others with kindness even if we don’t agree with them. Such great readings today!

  2. Mercy says:

    @CAROLINE BRIDGES: adultery is sex outside marriage. Sex within marriage is holy and for the purpose of multiplication/fruitfulness which God blesses. Children is a blessing and a reward of the womb, and sex within marriage is the way to bring forth children. “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.” (Hebrews 13:4).

  3. Victoria E says:

    Wow so many great comments. I’m posting after working another 16 hour day – I’ve been reading along and praying for requests but have been too wiped out to post. I really need prayer- work is still bad and getting worse on many ways, and I lack wisdom on appropriate next steps for my career. Thank you

  4. Tia Watkins says:

    I am just truly ask to pray my deliverance through..

  5. Claire B says:

    ♥️ profound. Dealing with the political climate and the United Methodist Church has about done me in this year.

  6. Linda in NC says:

    Thank you for your prayers for my hubby today. Praise to a loving God who hears and answers our prayers. He did very well. Had to ask me for a couple of words but that was ok. People came to him to tell him God spoke to them through him sharing today. I was strengthened by knowing so many were praying. Have a blessed night!

  7. Indiana Elaine says:

    KRISTINE LOUGHMAN – I can sympathize with your foot pain. After researching on line, I found the #1 shoe for foot pain. I have been wearing them for several years and they have helped back, knee and foot pain. They are pricey, but very well worth it! Prayers are with you as you seek to find answers.

  8. Nora Lowrey says:

    Over it all, love one another & hold God as our highest priority!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *