Bible Reading: Romans 13:1-7
My wife has this interesting habit. Whenever I have told her about someone who she hasn’t met yet, she goes ahead and creates a picture of the person in her mind. She decides whether the name I have told her is a young or old person, fair or dark, tall or short. She decides various attributes like the mannerism or type and quantity of beard, and so on. And then when she someday meets the person, she’s vehemently arguing that the person is not supposed to have thick beard, because the picture she had in her mind didn’t have thick beard.
Aunty, you made up your picture! It was never based on the real, was it?
It’s how she goes on arguing about some feature or the other that I can never understand. How do you sit down in your house and decide that my secondary school classmate whose name I mentioned is light complexioned and has tribal marks?
Today’s reading makes me feel guilty of the very same thing.
If I was to decide a picture of a government and rulers that God would command me to regard, honour and obey, I would definitely place an emphasis on features like the people in Government being God fearing, intelligent, visionary and full of integrity, and the like. My picture of a government that I should honour and regard will be based on what people in government do, not the mere fact that they occupy an office.
But here are three things from our reading today that we must all hold dearly when it comes to relating with those in authority, and by extension, the Societies that we live in:
Recognition of Their God-Given Authority
The Bible teaches us to accord a certain regard and recognition to everyone who holds authority. Our values might conflict and they might not be performing at the level of our desire, but there is a recognition that we must accord everyone in authority for the mere fact that they are in a position of authority. Paul says that when we resist authority, we are resisting something God instituted and recognises.
So to resist authority is to resist the divine order of God, which results in severe consequences. Romans 13:2 TPT
Whether its a head of Government, a head in an office or a class captain, we must be people who live our lives recognising authority as God-given.
Act Right Towards Them and The Society
We must not only recognise, we must also act rightly towards authority. We may not be in control of the other end of the narrative which is dependent on choices that a leader makes, but we can stay in control of our own end of the narrative. We can choose to be a people that do what is right- pay our taxes, pray for our leaders, honour our leaders, and so on, whether or not the leader is acting their own end of the script.
Pay your obligations to everyone: taxes to those you owe taxes, tolls to those you owe tolls, respect to those you owe respect, and honor to those you owe honor. Romans 13:7 HCSB
Here’s the thing about honour that we must never forget: Honour is something that we choose to give, not something the recipient earns. It emanates from you and is dependent entirely on you.
Keep A Good Conscience
Paul encourages that we act towards leaders and society in such a way that we keep our conscience pure and right. We must guard ourselves against bitterness and offence producing wrong reactions that lead to a polluted conscience, many times in the weight of disappointment at those in authority. We must not hold back from doing what we know is right, such that we start to live with a polluted and deadened conscience.
You are compelled to obey them, not just to avoid punishment, but because you want to live with a clean conscience. Romans 13:5 TPT
The reality is that governments will come and go, but the state of our heart and conscience will stay with is. Let us not lose who we are because of where we are or when we are.
In all, our reading today is shouting to us in clear terms to own our own end of the narrative, and not merely react to the other end. Own the guarding of your heart and conscience, own the commitment to a life of honour and acting right, own a commitment to being a good citizen. And all that is up to us.