Paul spends a lot of time in Romans chapter 13 talking about our role and relationship to government authority and living together as a community. I find it interesting that he subjected himself to the authority of Rome and was eventually executed by the Roman government essentially when he was innocent of any crime. The Roman government was not a democracy or even a fully representative form of government where everyone had a vote like ours. The emperor ruled. Yes, there was a Senate that advised and voted, but make no mistake…the emperor ruled. And when things got tough, politicians and those who were powerful were killed to move them out of the theatre of influence.
So is Paul saying we need to bow down to government’s every whim and law, when he says that those in authority are established by God? That doesn’t seem logical in analyzing the text. What seems more logical is that we are to play by the rules, because most of what he refers to in the following text in the way of rules is “good behavior” and the ten commandments…oh yeah, and paying your taxes..LOL ! (I get the taxes part, you can’t have a functioning government unless someone pays for it, and why not have those who are served by it do the paying.) Those doing actual evil that he talks about are not in subjection to the government or God, and they are not following the guidance that Paul is offering.
Jesus, on the other hand, had a few things to say about government, too (Matthew 22 and Mark 12.) He said we are to give government what belongs to government and give to God, what belongs to Him. In other words, in the realm of faith and God instructed behavior, we follow God and not the government. So if the government were to choose to allow or mandate behavior inconsistent with God’s instruction, we aren’t to follow that…and we have a duty in this country to vote our conscience and speak our minds about it. They had that same duty in the Roman Empire (and might still be around today if they’d carried out that duty better.)
We are not to be sheep when it comes to the government. Our forefathers understood that very well when they grappled with the constitution and put in the checks and balances to keep from having a tyrannical government emerge. We now live in an age where many liberal thinkers in government and the courts are saying that we need to throw out the constitution so that those in power can be free to make the changes they want. We even have those in government today who are not following the rules the constitution laid out, and are getting away with it.
We need to use our vote…and use it intelligently.