Looking at the topic of the church and state, politics and religion this past Sunday, it is clear that this is a very complex issue. As we looked at Romans 13:1-7, and read through passages such as Titus 3:1-2; 1 Timothy 2:1-6; and 1 Peter 2:13-17; in many ways we have as many questions now as we did before.
There are few easy answers as we try to apply to ourselves in 21st Century America this challenging teaching from the Apostle Paul to our brothers and sisters in first century Rome. It is crucial that we differentiate between political issues and issues related to our soul’s salvation. That seems to be part of what the Holy Spirit was trying to do in the first century, and continues to be a challenge today.
Perhaps there are two especially important lessons we can glean from this section
The first is to heed the reminder to pray for our governing authorities, and for those same authorities of other nations around the world. Pray for them by name, and for their families, that God will bless them, that they will govern with justice, fairness, and morality. Pray that they will help provide peace so that the Word of God can be spread without persecution from the “powers that be.” And continue to act submissively, respectfully, and faithfully, as citizens of this country, and as citizens of the kingdom of Christ.
Secondly, I hope that you have also heard a call to think. Certainly we do not “check our brains at the door” when we become Christians. One thing that a study through the book of Romans tells us is that there are some very difficult issues that we are called to consider, concerning which we are to make judgments and then to live out in our lives. We acknowledge our humanity, and the frailties and limitations that inevitably come with that humanity. But we do not need to fear being challenged by honest reflection from sincere minds upon the Word of God. More to be feared are those who would seek to stop that open and honest study. We say that we seek to go strictly by the Bible. Sometimes the Bible makes that very difficult, such as when it calls on us to be living sacrifices”—actually calling us to sacrifice some things. Will we truly seek to go by the Bible?
This Sunday our thoughts will come from the remainder of Romans 13, and the wonderful words that remind us of the significance and priority of loving others, including this great and challenging statement: “Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” (Romans 13:10)