Yesterday, after preaching on Romans 13, I started answering questions that were tweeted to the sound booth. The questions focused primarily on “what ifs” and what submission looked like if we fundamentally disagree with something, especially when our disagreement is Bible-Based. The challenge in applying Paul’s instruction to a congregation under Nero to our American context, is that submission to our governing authorities includes an admonition by our constitution for the electorate to have political opinions. How we do that respectfully, is something each one needs to take to God with a clear conscience. Obviously, if we were ever in a situation where the government asked us to do something in direct violation of God’s word, we have to choose to follow God. I don’t think I’m permitted to do that subversively, but some are (Exodus 1:17-21).
There were two questions that I never heard and I wanted to use this venue to answer.
Last week you made the point that war isn’t murder because you’re under subjection to govt. Today you made the point that we are not to submit to govt when it contradicts scripture. How do we reconcile this?
Great Question. Last week I was asked if the prohibition against taking vengeance in Romans 12 (an echo of Jesus’ instruction to turn the other cheek) meant that believers shouldn’t serve in the military or law enforcement. I rehearsed the two main protestant positions:
- Jakob Ammann is the name attached to the Pacifist or non-resistance position that says the admonition to never retaliate with violence means a Christian may never serve in the military or law enforcement.
- Martin Luther is the name attached to the two states view that says, essentially, while the individual is under Christ’s mandate to not retaliate, the state is not. Capital punishment, for instance, is part of the Noahic Covenant and the Police Man’s Sword is affirmed as late as Romans 13. So this view says a believer working under that state can do what a believer can’t do as an individual.
So yes, in light of that second view, I would say that killing under the terms of engagement is not murder. The questions this Sunday had to do with things like resisting Hitler’s Government. I said, that if you believed the government was telling you to commit murder, then you could/should resist – being mindful of the consequence. The definition of “murder” verses an act of war or justice is pretty codified in the US, but we each stand before God as individually and must have a clean conscience. The Amish and other pacifist groups consider all killing murder regardless of the state’s involvement.
Second Unanswered Question:
What if there are differences between the various levels of governing authorities? So one layer says you can’t do this but another says you have to or vice versa? Whether government, company, husband, etc.
This is also a great question. It’s one Paul is answering, in part, in verse 7, which says: 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 – so we are to do our duty to each layer. But you are also asking about layers that conflict. Typically, it’s a hierarchy issue (if the cop tells you to move your car and the tow truck driver tells you to leave it where it is, obey the cop). When it’s two agencies making contradictory demands; it’s likely time for lots of letter writing or even arbitration. Don’t quietly flout one authority while honoring the other. We need to walk in the light – which means transparency and communication, as much as it depends on you!