A Civics Lesson From The First Century

It was during the rule of the Roman Empire and the reign of the infamous Nero that the Apostle Paul wrote the book of Romans to the believers at Rome. History gives Nero a legacy of cruelty, executing his own mother and likely poisoning a brother. The Roman Empire often did not play nice, especially to Christians. There is no evidence that I am aware of that Emperor Nero targeted Christian believers but his government was one of swift punishment meted out to those who offended the laws of the Empire.

It was against this back-drop of political life in the great city of Rome, in the later part of the first half of the first century, that Paul wrote the letter to the Romans. Romans is without doubt the watershed of Christian theology in the Bible. Many of the great themes discussed in seminary class rooms are from the book of Romans.

It is interesting that in the 13th chapter and in the first 7 verses, Paul departs from theology and focuses for some time on practical living. He gives those ancient Roman Christians some Apostolic advice that I think is timeless and suits us well in America in 2012.

1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. (Romans 12:1-7)

This passage needs little commentary. My Readers Digest condensed version is something like this.

God is fully in control! So do the right thing and trust God to settle the score. Pay your taxes, obey the laws, and respect those whom God has appointed to rule over you.

Many of us are unhappy with the political climate in the United States. In our free Constitutional Republic we have a voice, our voices and our votes. We can change things we don’t like. Some fear we are loosing many of our cherished freedoms. Maybe so. But!

If you and I do the right thing, respect our leaders and law enforcement, pay our just taxes, and depend only on God for justice, we will be fine.

The time might come in our great United States when we must take a stand as did our heroes as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles when they declared “we must obey God rather than men”. We must be cautious that God approves before we rebel against the authority he has clearly set over us. Those brave men only rebelled when the authorities demanded that they stop preaching Christ. They could not and did not stop.

I think it’s a good idea to learn from history. And in this case, the history recorded is from God for us. If we are smart we’ll pay attention.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s