Freedom and ‘Merica.

OK, so everyone’s already mad about everything right now, so let’s just do some politics on here. What can it hurt.

My little girls are 4 and 6 now, and they’re hitting an age where they are really embodying the stubbornness of their parents. One of the most common phrases in our house right now is, “I don’t wanna.” It can be used for anything from picking up some toys to eating food on their plates.

Its also fascinating (thats the nice word for this) to see that they know better. We will very often have this conversation:

Father: “Do the thing.”

Offspring: “I donn’t wanna.”

Father: “But I told you to.”

Offspring: “I know.”

Father: “You know you have to do what your parents say.”

Offspring: “Yeah.”

Father: “And I told you to do the thing.”

Offspring: “Yeah.”

Father: “So do it.”

Offspring: “But I don’t wanna!”

As a dad of 2 girls, I’m getting used to the idea that logic will never mean anything in my house.

We all do this all the time. We know the right thing, we know the reasons, but we don’t wanna, so we either justify around it or we ignore it entirely. Now to the politics:

Many of us are fiercely independent Americans. We do what we want, when we want, ’cause Freedom and ‘Merica. We do what the government tells us to do only when it’s convenient to follow the rules, ‘cause Freedom and ‘Mercia. We let common sense rule rather than some suit in Saint Paul or Washington DC, ‘cause we know better, and Freedom and ‘Merica (even though, if we’re honest about ourselves, our common sense is questionable at best).

But, is that what the Bible says? Is that what is right? Because our focus isn’t supposed to be on Freedom and ‘Merica, its supposed to be on the gospel, on the cross, on loving God and loving others, and on doing the right thing, all the time, not matter what.

In Romans 13, Paul is writing to Christians in the belly of the anti-Christian beast, Rome. They’re surrounded by paganism and by governmental authorities that, in the best of times simply reject and ignore Christians and, in the worst, actively try to kill them. Still, Paul tells Christians:

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. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.

Romans 13:1-2

That is one of those passages that we like to tell ourselves that it doesn’t mean what it says, even though it clearly means what it says. But lets see if we can wiggle out of it: Paul goes on in the following verses to talk about doing right and wrong, and basically says if you do the right thing then you have nothing to fear from the authorities over you-its the idea that you don’t worry about seeing the highway patrol on the roads if you’re driving the speed limit, but you get terrified when you see them and you’re speeding.

But, as the last few weeks have made very clear, that isn’t always the case for everyone. There are bad people in positions of authority. They may not be everywhere, and they may be a minority, but they are there. Sometimes we can get in trouble even though we didn’t do anything wrong. So, does that give us an out?

Hold your horses there, Galloping Gus. Peter has a similar message in his first letter:

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. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.

1 Peter 2:1-2

Peter goes on with a similar “good conduct” argument, but I want to point to the context here. In 1 Peter, he is writing to Christians that are in the midst of intense persecution. It’s one of those bad times, where they are being hunted simply because of their profession of faith in Jesus Christ. And still, while they are “elect exiles of the Dispersion” (1 Peter 1:1), they are still to be subject to the governing authorities; to “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” (1 Peter 2:17)

This isn’t a command to blindly follow whatever leaders tell us to do. It was not a command to turn themselves in to the authorities. However, as a general rule, when they (and we) were able to love God, love others, and follow the rules laid down by the authorities, then they were to do so. Even when they disagreed with the rules. Even when the rules didn’t make sense. Even when the rules were inconvenient. Even when the rules weren’t followed by others or by the leaders themselves. “…render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Luke 20:25)

As I have said, we aren’t called to blindly follow, but as followers of Christ we should be marked by our passion for God, our love for others, and our respect for everyone, including our government. We can show respect and protest. We can show honor and disagree (that might be a shocking statement in our current cultural climate). But we should acknowledge that all of our governing authorities; elected and unelected; local, state, and national; Republican, Democrat, and other; they are all in the positions they are in because God willed it.

You’re probably right-you probably do know better. We don’t always get the best and brightest in positions of authority. But they are in those positions, so show them the honor the positions deserve, for the sake of the Kingdom of God.

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