Scripture Reflection – Romans 13:1-2

“Let everyone submit to the governing authorities, since there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are instituted by God. So then, the one who resists the authority is opposing God’s command, and those who oppose it will bring judgment on themselves.”

Romans 13:1-2

This is the difficulty. Both sides of the present division see themselves as fulfilling this command. 

Now, I am speaking here only of confessing, faithful Christians. I am not speaking about the culture at large nor about those who claim to be Christian but have no more concern for the authority of Christ than the authority of Oprah…or maybe they are more tuned in to the authority of Oprah than the authority of Christ! As I try to listen carefully to people that I actually know personally, who are attempting to follow Christ faithfully, I hear them both appealing to Romans 13:1-2.

On the one hand, I hear condemnation of Christian nationalism and a cult of personality. These folks see the events at the capitol building as insurrection precisely because it disrupted a constitutional process of transferring power. They see President Trump as the villain masterminding a takeover of the United States for his own glory. Thus, obedience to Romans 13 means condemning support for President Trump, removing him from power, and moving on. 

On the other hand, I hear condemnation of social progressivism, illegitimate use of the judiciary to force social and moral change upon the nation, and unethical use of media and power to alter the results of the presidential election. They see the events at the capitol building as a peaceful protest interrupted by bad actors and now co-opted by a media complicit with social progressives. They see President Trump as a hero who is standing up for values consistent with Christianity and successfully thwarting the progressive agenda to usurp constitutional governance. Thus, obedience to Romans 13 means condemning the complicit media, refusing to accept a questionable election, and holding on to the gains made by President Trump against the progressive agenda.

Both sides see themselves as faithfully upholding Romans 13. Both sides see the other as compromising Christian witness. Both sides see the present moment as deeply consequential for the nation and Christianity. 

Which view is right? What if they both are? What must be heard from the other? What does it mean to “love my neighbor” and thus “do no wrong” as Romans 13:8-10 commands? 

As I attempt to be “quick to listen” (James 1:19), these are the questions that confront me. 

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