Faith- “Do what is good”

By Gerald Donovan

“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God.” (Romans 13:1 NRSV)

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions quoted this verse as justification for the change to a zero tolerance U.S. immigration policy — a policy that includes separating children from parents apprehended for crossing into the U.S. illegally. General Sessions uses a common technique of “cherry picking” a verse from the Bible to scripturally justify their actions. This leads to misunderstandings of God’s Word.

The book of Romans was a letter written by the Apostle Paul to the Christian church in Rome. I believe that one must read the entire book of Romans to better understand this verse but allow me to use the General’s technique to try to understand this verse better.

Paul advises us not to take revenge but to leave matters with God in Romans 12:19-21: ”19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” God does it through government. The rulers are God’s servants to execute judgment. The government is established by God for the good of all. Therefore, Christians should support it with taxes and submission.

Here Paul assumes that the government is fulfilling the duty assigned by God. He does not specifically deal with abnormal conditions, such as when the government usurps the absolute authority of God. Which happens a few years later when Nero changes his tolerance towards Christians and begins executing them including Paul.

However, if Paul’s letter is carefully observed, his intent is clear. Paul urges submission not absolute obedience. Constantly taking the lowly place of submission against one another is possible but obeying one another constantly is not. Therefore, if the government no longer serves God and does what is contrary to God’s will, we should follow God rather than blindly obey the government like the apostles in Acts, “19 But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge;” (Acts 4:19 NRSV)

Later in the same chapter 13 of Romans in verses 9 and 10 Paul echoes the The Greatest Commandment that Jesus gave to his disciples and us, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”

My advice when quoting scripture is to quote Jesus who left us no room to debate. Simply hear, obey and follow his teachings.

May God Bless You and Your Family


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