Read This Week’s Passage: Romans 13

The Christian’s Relationship With the Government

The Christian’s relationship with the civil government is complicated. On the one hand, we understand that God established the authorities that exist, and we should be subject to them (Romans 13:1). On the other hand, the Roman government treated Christians in Rome like sheep for the slaughter (Romans 8:35, 36). Paul had to remind the early believers to bless their persecutors because they were in the midst of being persecuted (Romans 12:14). They were to seek their persecutors’ good despite their persecution (Romans 12:18). Rather than inciting rebellion and vengeance, they were to trust in the future judgment of God and, in the meantime, seek to overcome evil with good (Romans 12:19, 21).

The Christian’s relationship with the civil government is complicated because we hold competing beliefs in tension. For example, our theology is rooted in the legal tradition of the Old Testament. Thus we believe in the rule of law. We also believe in a God who superintends history (Job 12:19; Psalm 75:6, 7; Daniel 2:21). Additionally, Christians are familiar with the prophets who were critics of corrupt rulers throughout the Old Testament (Micah 3:9). So how should we synchronize these principles and relate to civil governments? We should be as submissive to civil government as we possibly can without compromising our loyalty to God. This means that we should pay our taxes and customs and communicate respect and honor to our officials (Romans 13:7). Nothing in Scripture prevents us from fulfilling these minimum responsibilities. More than that, we should far exceed the minimums by generous acts of love (Romans 13:8) as we walk the path of holiness and await the return of the rightful king—the Lord Jesus (Romans 13:11–14).