Well, if you follow news at all, and it’s tough these days not to, you know what’s coming up about a month from now...
The next general election across America.
And by all accounts, in many areas it could be a donnybrook.
Perhaps the state-related elections across Pennsylvania might actually be rather quiet. Frankly there hasn’t been a lot of emotion or even that much interest for those races for Governor, State Senate and the State House. It looks like they may go quietly.
But on the national front, elections for the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, we could be a month from Armageddon.
An increasing number of Americans appear to have a real fear for the future of our great Republic. All you need to do is read the headlines in the paper or on TV or websites...
Accusations, wild or otherwise. Outlandish statements from presidents and politicians alike. Emotions at a fever pitch.
Protests and arguments at public places. Screaming and yelling at meetings. And the occasional fisticuffs and scuffles.
And it won’t calm down over these next few weeks. It will intensify.
Could it somehow crack the nation in two, not by states like the Civil War but by political persuasions?
How should we as Christians react to the swirl of vitriol and public opinion around us?
The apostle Paul’s various letters to congregations of the early church are both enlightening and sometimes controversial.
And then there’s his letter to the Romans, Chapter 13.
In some texts this chapter is entitled “Submission to Governing Authorities.” For people feeling rebellious those are fighting words right from the start.
Here’s the entire chapter NIV...
Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong.
Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.
This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.
Keep in mind that this was a letter to the fledgling church in Rome, the heart of the ruling Roman Empire. Imagine their reaction reading these thoughts from Paul – submit to the authorities? That’s probably the last thing they wanted to do.
This passage is filled with lines that could start a series of arguments, yet take a moment to step back and examine.
Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good.
That last line probably would draw derisive laughs from some Americans. But if you think about it, our experiment in governance by the people over the last two centuries falls apart if we don’t believe it.
Go back to 1860. Abraham Lincoln was elected President against the wishes of some people. They didn’t believe that election had any good so they simply rebelled and left the Union. It took four years, rampant destruction and over 600,000 dead countrymen to finally show that Lincoln was indeed God’s servant for good.
Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.
Read the headlines lately – not a lot of respect and honor being shown, is it?
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.
Not much love lately either. Yet we are called as Christians to love one another. “Love your neighbor as you would yourself.” Doesn’t matter what your political persuasion is. Love them anyway.
Let us behave decently, as in the daytime... not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ...
Jesus certainly had his disputes with the authorities during his ministry. The Pharisees were constantly harping on him. Many of the Jewish leaders hated him. Even some people from his hometown of Nazareth wanted nothing to do with him.
But “love one another” was his never-ending mantra.
Can we emulate Him? Now and over the coming weeks, can we turn down the level of hate and the heat of emotion and instead love our neighbors? Step forward with reason, not with blind feelings, no matter your persuasion.
Disagreeing is one thing – we’ll never all agree and that’s normal. But the visceral hatred being strewn over the airwaves and in print and in public will surely tear this nation apart – again – if we allow it.
What future are we leaving for our young people? Imagine what they’re learning right now...
From George Churchgoer