Romans 13:1 declares that God institutes governing authorities. God cares enough about government that He established it. We know that there are different types of governing authorities depending on the type of government that has been established in the nation that we live in. There are all types of different governments in our world. There are Monarchies, Oligarchies, Democracies, Republics, etc. Therefore, governing authorities can be people or it can be the rule of law.
God calls us to submit to our governing authorities, while simultaneously understanding that we only do so as long as we are not disobeying God in the process (Acts 5:29). We can and should be respectful to authority in almost all possible scenarios. Our calling to love others and to be peaceful should be considered during any encounter with a government official, police officer, member of the military, etc. It is safe to say that our world would be a better place if more men, women and children practiced being more respectful to those in authority.
The authorities are called to good
Frequently we hear stories about how citizens show a lack of respect for the authorities and many times that is certainly true. However, there are also times when government officials, police officers and members of the military, abuse their authority. There are times when they are not looking out for the good of the citizen. Yet that is exactly what they are called to. God’s word declares that the authority is a minister of God to citizens for good.
“For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.” Romans 13: 3-4
The definition of good in this context is extremely important. Good in this context does not mean that the authority defines what is good. Good has already been defined by God. The standard for good in this context is the opposite of evil, which means it is a very high and godly standard. Those in authority often times do not live up to that standard and that should not be so easily accepted.
The authorities are called to oppose evil
The bible teaches that the authority is a minister of God to bring wrath on those who practice evil (Romans 13:4). That means that those in authority are to oppose anyone who practices evil, including others in positions of authority. God’s standard to oppose and expose evil also applies to citizens too (Ephesians 5:11). The truth is we all have been called by God to oppose evil.
Maybe those in authority and the citizens of our nation should promote respect for others in their own lives first, instead of pointing the finger at someone else first. There is a time to encourage others to be respectful as well, but let’s be as kind as we can about it. We have a sin issue that affects all of us, not just others that we may have a negative perception of.
Those placed in authority are called to do good and to execute justice on those who do evil things. And citizens are called to submit to that authority, except when it conflicts with our obedience to Christ. Respect for authority is a two way street and that is the only way that it works well for everyone. If you are in a position of authority, then you should be looking for more ways to do things that God calls good. If you are a citizen, then you should be looking for more ways to respect those in authority. And we should not be afraid to hold each other accountable.