Perhaps there is not a greater controversy in the Church today than Romans 13. It probably would never have been brought to the forefront had it not been for the Covid19 Virus. The Lockdowns, the masking and social distancing mandate, the shutting down of churches for the sake of health. What does Romans 13 really say? I visited a church a couple weeks ago where the pastor’s sermon was specifically about this subject. His final statement was that we should obey the governing authorities in everything except when they say that we cannot preach the Gospel. The confusing thing was that almost everyone in the church was not wearing a mask and most were not social distancing which is mandated here and there were probably two hundred people in the church, if not more. So, we were pretty much all breaking the law, only that was not mentioned. Is that really what Romans 13 is saying? A closer reading of the chapters 12 through 14 show us what our attitude should be. And interpreting scripture is always in context of other scripture.
Rulers are appointed to give laws for the good of all.
Romans 13:1-14 (NKJV)
1 Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.
2 Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.
3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same.
4 For he is God's minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.
This portion states that rulers are there to give laws that protect society and give peace. Do all rulers do that? Of course not. Should they? Yes. What is the duty of all Christians regardless of what government they are under? It states it right there. The Christian is to do good works, glorifying God. We are to be peaceful so as not to bring reproach on the Lord and His Gospel. I don’t think that any true Christian would reject that. What it says very plainly is if we break the laws of the land then we will suffer punishment. Whether that punishment be from the government or God is not so clear. Possibly both. The catch here is what laws are we to submit to? All the laws, even those that go against our faith? What if a law such as in a Muslim country forbids Christian worship and proselytizing? Are we to obey that law? What if we are in an army of a country and we are ordered to kill Christians or any peaceful citizens? The answer is obvious. You may not know it but it happened in Germany when Christians were ordered by Hitler to kill Jews and and many who were Christians. You say how could you be a Christian and be in Hitler’s army? He drafted both my friend’s father and grandfather who was age 65 and both were killed in battle. They were Christians and yet had to serve in an army that did many evil things against the will of God.
What are the laws of our land that we must follow? The pastor I heard said that the Bible does not say we can march with placards. No, it does not but it says to obey rulers and in our land the laws are in our constitution. We are allowed by the first amendment to peacefully protest. It is our legal right and so therefore we are submitting to the governing authorities when we do that. It is interesting that in the latter part of the chapter it gives the answer that should settle the whole matter. It quotes some of the Ten Commandments, which are the laws given directly from God.
8 Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.
9 For the commandments, "You shall not commit adultery," "You shall not murder," "You shall not steal," "You shall not bear false witness," "You shall not covet," and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
It is clear here that we are to love our neighbors as a priority and keep the laws of God. Those laws are the Ten Commandments. If we do that, we should not be punished as an evil doer. It seems that it is all based on the principle of Love. If we follow God’s commands, doing His commandments which were given not only to save us from our own selfishness and lust, but to do the works of righteousness then we will be pleasing to the Lord. In a civil society we will be looked upon with favor. Of course all societies are not civil and ours is quickly moving away from righteousness. It is a simple directive from the apostle and that is to do good, show love and you will live peaceably. If the society is such that persecution results from doing good, then we must obey God rather than man. Everything we do should be governed by love. If it is marching with placards peaceably to save the killing of innocents, then we are doing God’s work out of love for Him and for people, specifically babies. We are not to riot as some are but we are to do the whole will of God and that is not JUST preaching the Gospel.
“10 Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”