Romans 13:1-7 (ESV) 1 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. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.
A little bit of background on this passage before we begin. Paul is writing during the time of Imperial Rome, to the church located in the center of the Eternal City. He is writing to people who are living everyday in the midst of the cult of the Emperor whose image was to worshiped as that of a god on earth. The letter was probably written a few years before the church underwent major persecution under Nero in AD 64, though it is entirely likely the church felt some external pressure to conform to the culture-at-large going on around them. They were living in a culture of death and gluttony and debauchery, and were forced daily to see idolatry practiced all around them in the form of the Pantheon. They were very distinct in the city and they faced an interesting setting in which to do ministry and to live as both residents of Rome and as Christians.
And then Paul writes this segment of text in Romans, and tells these Christians who watch the Imperial lust for power, the overtaxation, the abuses of absolute power, etc. and he tells them that they are to be submissive to this authority. The same government that desecrated the Temple in Jerusalem is to be respected, feared, and obeyed. How can this be? Simply put, those who are in authority are there because God Himself has put them there to do His good will. In fact, Paul goes so far as to say those in the church who defy the authorities are subject to judgment. They are to be honored, respected, and they should be supported by taxes. This pagan, idolatrous, arrogant, God-hating government was put in place by God Himself to carry the sword and be a part of His Sovereign will.
That said, there seem to be many Christians who feel that unless a certain candidate wins the election today, God will “lose” and that there is no way God could ordain a certain candidate to be our next President. To those who feel like God can lose or that God’s will is not perfectly achieved in every aspect of life, I want to tell you that you have far too small a God. We see in Scripture an all-sovereign God who holds the kings of the earth in the palm of His hand and directs them as He sees fit. He raised the Assyrians and Babylonians to discipline His people and return them to the covenant, He hardens the heart of Pharaoh (a self-professed god himself) to show His power over nations, and He in Christ uses the evil Roman empire to be the vehicle for the rapid spread of the Gospel.
A God who is not in control of ALL things and sovereignly ruling over all things at all times in all places through all people using all (noticing a theme here) is not a truly sovereign God. If anything catches God “off guard” then He is not really sovereign. So that being said, we come to a very interesting time in our history as a nation. It is entirely likely that the winner of the election today will be someone who holds to a very liberal view on critical evangelical issues such as abortion, religious freedoms, etc. Whatever the outcome of the election is, whether it be a McCain or Obama victory, as Christians we have confidence that the winner is the one ordained by God to that position as His chosen agent and servant. Our votes are so important, and every citizen should do their duty and cast their vote for who in their conscience they feel should be our next President. But God is the Lord of the thousand hills, and all that is on the earth is His, and that includes nations and their governments. No matter who occupies the White House, there is a White Throne where the true King sits and He rules in perfect wisdom, goodness and judgment, and His power makes every king and President and man look meek and insignificant. Do not forget church, you are citizens of Heaven, you belong to a greater Kingdom than anything here on earth, and He by His Word rules over all in complete power and providence. THAT is my God, is He yours as well?
Should this happen, how are we as Christians to respond to that? Simply put, we are to follow the teaching of Paul in Romans 13 and submit to the authorities that God has placed over us, pay our taxes, be faithful citizens, honor and respect those whom God has placed over us, and continue to fulfill the Commission given by our Lord in Matthew 28. Christians should daily pray for our President and his family, our national, state, and local governments that they would govern justly and exercise authority rightly. More than that, pray for their salvation. The hope for curing America’s ills is not found in policies, programming, or in judicial decisions. The cure is found in the hope and glory of the cross, where the sinful hearts of men are regenerated to new life in Christ. When we place our hope for change in programs, we forsake the cross. Christ is the only solution to our ills, and that is change we can believe in.
So, with the election results looming and the likelihood of an Obama victory very high, I ask you one question…. How big is your God?