Christian obedience

Romans 13: 1-7 in itself is clear, saying that every soul, no one excluded, must be obedient to any government. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. And: “Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.” (NASB)

Here are some "what if’s" to take into consideration:
– what if Romans 13 has been historically abused on a large scale to totally control people en to enslave them.
Romans 13 was 'the glue' that kept Nazi Germany together. Nazis and Slave owners regularly quoted Romans 13.
In times of turmoil and protests, at the dislike of the governments, Roman 13 is also frequently quoted. But:
– what if a government is doing evil things? What if the government is not doing good for all citizens, but clearly bad?
– what if a government abuses the sword against its civilians?
– what if governments discriminate or set people apart and treat them unequally and unlawfully?
– what if governments act against mankind?
– what if governments want to oppress and even murder distinct groups?
– what about an occupying government?
– what if a government asks us to do things that go against God’s word.

Summarizing the above considerations: what if a government abuses its role, given by God and may even abuse the Bible or Bible verses to affirm its position?

Not only have there, historically, been clear examples of great and direct abuse of Romans 13 by governments. Many Christians have also used Romans 13 as an excuse to look away and to be obedient to the government while they shouldn't, because that was the easiest choice for them. Many German Christians, for example, stimulated by the fact that the government was democratically chosen, obeyed the Nazis in almost everything. They looked away and it is unclear what came first; the chicken or the egg. Most of the German people said: ‘Wir haben es nicht gewußt’. Could and should they have known it, or did they not know it, because they blindly obeyed their Führer and, with that, had totally blindfolded themselves for the truth? Also in other, occupied countries, their has been a lot of obedience to the occupational force of the Nazis. There was, in general, not that much resistance at all. Was that right? Was there maybe hidden support for it, which one dared not to admit but which secretly was already long gone there? This historical abuse at least carries a very important lesson in it, namely that this Bible part should not easily be used, in times of tension, turmoil or when there is a clash between government and civilians, let alone war. Abuse to control and neglect or ignore what is really going on, lies directly around the corner. It can make things much worse and it usually does. So, I would suggest to avoid naming it in such cases. It is almost the same as a husband who is treating his wife badly reads a Bible verse after dinner, making clear that she should obey him, as head of the family. It only puts oil on the fire.

One may ask oneself: "Is this Bible part so absolute that their really is no escape possible?". Should one at all times indeed obey the government? Should we even give in to abuse of it and ask no further questions and humbly do what is asked of us? Is that what’s intended? Well, if this would be the only thing that could be deducted from the Bible, it would indeed be inescapably necessary to obey the government at all times, no matter what is asked from us. But, as with many Bible verses or parts, that is not the whole story. To obey a government at all times is a total oversimplification, and only partly true. And something only partly true often may be worse than a blunt lie. This is often totally taken out of the context of what is further found in the Bible. And one should always weigh it against what else is written also. But, what else then, in relation to this, is written in Gods Word about it?

Well, except that we should obey the government, we also, and even more so, and in the very first place, have to be submissive and obedient to God. Above all! If the demands of the government go against God’s will, we must obey God more than the government, as is totally made clear in God’s word (Acts 4: 19, Acts 5: 29). As simple as that. And this is not an option, it is our duty. We have to! If we don’t, then we are disobedient to God, which is an even more serious matter. It puts more weight on the scale, so to speak. We should at all times be obedient to a government who does its task right, but when a government does not, we should obey God more. Not to be a disobedient in itself, for the sake of resistance, no, not at all, but simply because God ordained that we have to obey Him more then anything else. So, yes, we may, in that case, be forced to be disobedient to such a government, by the simple fact that it is our foremost duty to be more obedient to God than to a government that acts not only disobedient to Gods law, but totally works against it. Oft times this side is however completely forgotten, and there are far less historical examples of that form of obedience to God instead of to such a government, not because such situations were not there, they were (and abundantly), but because we instead rather obeyed governments and with that were disobedient to God. So, the general principle according to the Bible is: we should all obey the government at all times when it asks something of us that goes not against the will of God. If it does and, acts against it, and demands us to take part in doing wrong or evil, then we should, at all such times, obey God in such cases, and not the government! As simple as that. That is what some devoted Christians luckily understood in WWII and acted accordingly to it and protested against the discrimination of Jews and the raids and helped them escape or hide. But sadly they, shamefully, were a minority.

It is clear, in this Bible part, that Paul is talking about a government that is doing its task rightas it is expected it to do, according to how God ordained it. That becomes clear from this part: “Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.” In other words the by God ordained government is a good government, which is there to protect and be good and give praise to those who do good and bring wrath on those who do evil (and that to everyone equally alike; to all its civilians). So, this formally ordained government structure comes from God to protect those who do good and to punish those who do bad. It implies a government that performs its task and acts like as supposed and intended by God; that what a normal functioning government would and should do. One could say that, if a government does not do that, and, for example, does exactly the contrary, namely bad to the good and punishes the good, or praises and stimulate those who do bad, the other way around, something is definitely wrong and this is not at all how God intended a government to be. So, one cannot claim that Paul wrote this about the Roman government and that, because the Roman government was bad, one therefore also should obey a bad acting government in everything. No, of course not! Paul describes a general principle here of a by God ordained institution; a government that protects the good and punishes the bad; one given to do good, for the general well being of all men, all its inhabitants, as a servant of God.

If a government starts discriminating, or treating refugees bad, not taking care of them or even refusing to take care of them, or is violent and/or discriminating against certain groups, based on race, faith or whatever unjustified reasons or suspicions, expelling them or shutting them off; it is not a government as intended by God, nor how God wants it to be. We cannot go along with that and must be more obedient to God in that case. Should we also protest and raise our voice then? Probably, yes, thinking of all the prophets that God sent in the old testament to tell rulers that they were not acting to Gods will. And although we are not those prophets, to remain silent and shut up and look away is almost like approving it and not providing a government a chance to change and live up to its role again. In such case a passive and humble and obedient attitude will not lead to obedience to God, rather to disobedience to God. We should boldly tell the truth instead and never be afraid of it; not with the purpose of being resistant, but with the intention to make clear that something is wrong and should be restored again; namely that the government will perform its task again as intended; to be good to the good and bad to the bad; to act as a proper servant of God, as God has intended it. But not only should we protest or speak up, that's yet the relatively easy part, moreover, we are also obliged to do what God wants us to do. So, for example, if in WWII certain groups were forbidden, 'Jüde nicht gewünscht', Christians should totally go against such and keep welcoming them and treat them equally as God's human beings, as His crown on creation, as His people, out of all! And yes, it may cost you your own live, but looking away and having them deported is totally out of the question. Yet, the latter is what happened on a large scale. We can't let the human race be discriminated or set apart, with the consequences it had, as we all know now. How many of us would just look away today, and do nothing, and just wait for better times to come? Like they massively did back then? As we all know, many, too many, including Christians, or should I say 'government-obedient' Christians(?), looked away, giving themselves a total excuse, with the Bible in their hand.

A government or leaders, should not hold up 'a Bible' (as Trump hold up a Bible after forcefully cleaning the square in front of the White house from protesters). No, a government should hold up live up to the Bible and its God-given princeple. It should live up to its Biblical role, instituted by Goa. If a government goes against it, again we should do what God, what the Bible tells us to do in such cases, not what the government tells us to do. Making that clear can, of course, never be violent and should be peaceful, which is not the same as remaining silent. One can and must be loud and clear and one can and must raise once voice. How else will one be heard and be taken seriously? It is the difference between protesting and resisting. A Christian can and must peacefully protest, if needed, in cases where and when a government is abusing its power to do bad to good and good to bad. A Christian must obey God more and treat people equally alike, as a human being; God's crown on creation. That one can and should be bold against governors is not a non-Christian attitude, as if Christians at all times should be humble and shy and accepting everything that happens no them.

Think, for example, about the attitude of Paul and Silas, when something unrightfully was done to them. The rulers, who had thrown Paul and Silas in jail, wanted them to peacefully and silently disappear, unnoticed, through the ‘back door’, so to speak, without making any uproar whatsoever. The jailer said to Paul, “The officers have sent an order to let you go free. You can leave now. Go in peace.” No, said Paul, “They beat us up in public without any trial, even though we are Roman citizens. They threw us in jail. Now they want to make us go away quietly? By no means! Let them come themselves to lead us out!” Governments always want the, for them difficult people, to simply go away and leave, but that is not what should happen. There is not only a right to protest then, but for Christians there is an obedience to protest, to stand up for the truth and bring to light injustice; at the very least to act against it and do what God wants us to do, but we may be firm and bold, we must be, like Paul did. Some use this as a justification to say that only when we are not allowed to bring the gospel, only then and just then we should disobey the government, but in that case alone. In all other cases we should obey. But that would be narrowing down the general rule, and obvious principle that we should obey God more than people, which is not at all limited to just bringing the gospel, which is also is clearly Gods will for us. But that's absolutely not the only thing; we should do Gods will in everything, at all times, not just in bringing the Gospel, like the latter would be all God wants us to do. The fact that this is the only example in the Bible where it is mentioned, does not justify limitating it to bringing the gospel at all! The latter would namely free Christians, giving them an excuse for example for helping the Nazis or not putting anything in their way; or not helping Jewish people hide, because it was forbidden, or not letting them into your shop, bus or park, because it was forbidden. They could say: 'that's not about bringing the Gospel, so I have to be obedient in such cases. Of course that would be totally wrong, wouldn't you agree? So this makes evidently clear that it can not be just limited to solely the bringing the gospel; No, far more courage is needed for, and asked of us, Christians, namely to obey God more than people in all situations, where it is clear that it goes against God's will.

Looking the other way, or make pretend the problem is not there, or not taking it seriously, or downplaying it, getting tired of it, not wanting to see what is going on, in other words, running away from the truth is not at all what a Christian should do. A Christian should address the problem bravely and boldly, take it seriously and act obediently to God; that is to obey Him more and do, not primarily what the government asks from us, but what God ask from us. And not to act as total cowards who give themselves an invalid biblical excuse not to do what is right.

Be brave, be strong, for the Lord our God is with you!

Email: gertim . alberda @ (without spaces)