I am not much of a scientist though I did enjoy some physics in High School. Art was, and still is, more or less my thing. That said, my curiosity is piqued by scientific discourse that particularly touches on the universe, its origins and composition. Of particular interest is the concept of dark matter, the invisible element that makes up most of the universe and is thought to be responsible for holding the universe together (I imagine that this is a scientist way of admitting the existence of God and holding on to their brain). On a less grander scale, there are forces that are responsible for holding families, communities and nation together, suppressing chaos, sustaining order, continuity and nurturing progress. Romans 13 lets us in on one of this force: AUTHORITY.
Paul, had his fair share of running with the Roman authorities. At one time, he handed himself over to the Roman authorities because he was a Roman citizen. He was seeking for justice and at the same time looking to share the gospel with those in governing positions.
He begins chapter 13 of Romans with a directive at all believers “Everyone must submit himself to governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” What a revolutionary thought. According to the scriptures, everyone, not some people, but everyone should submit himself to the authorities.
What if it is illegitimate? Incompetent? Oppressive or down-right tyrannical?
I imagine that these would be the questions a sober, rational mind would ask in response to the command.
While Paul does not address this (at least not in this passage), we know that at the time of writing the letter to Romans the government of the day was an oppressive, military-styled tyrannical power ruling from Rome, the eternal city.
God is a God of order and He establishes authorities to put society in order. Paul continues, “Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you”.
In this era of democracy, free speech, freedom of choice and political expression, we who are believers are held to a higher standard in relating to God-ordained authority whether it is at home, church or State. We are certainly entitled to our choice, opinion and expression but at the end of the day, God’s word demand we submit to the authority He has established and/or permitted. Our submission allow God to do what only He can, hold responsible and punish those that desecrate power (which by the way proceeds from Him) by using it in their self interests by oppressing, destroying and harming fellow man.
Submission to authority does not mean subservience or timid silence when things go wrong or when power is abused and lives are at stake. It means that even when we stand to challenge authority, we do it respectfully. Our action, attitude and language should take cognizance that the authority in place would not exist if God did not allow them to. Ultimately all things, good or bad are employed in the business of bringing God glory. Even the satanically evil Nazi regime of Adolf Hitler whose primary objective was to annihilate the Jewish people served to achieve the very opposite, precipitation of the rebirth of a Jewish State, Israel in fulfillment of the Scriptures.
Just like dark matter is thought to be the source of order, pattern, consistency and regeneration of the universe, authority plays a similar kind of role in human societies, spiritual or secular and you and I would do our society some good by heeding the Holy Spirit who inspired Paul to write: “Everyone must submit himself to governing authorities….”