Respect My Authority?

I had a discussion this week with a friend and he mentioned that as a Christian, I should respect the office of the president of the United States of America even though I may not agree with the person holding the position. I understand the sentiment but I simply do not agree. I disagree with that for a few reasons but let us look at what the Bible says about government. I will show you three versions and you can decide for yourself. At no point should anyone think I am saying to blatantly break laws. I am simply trying to show why every fiber of my being cries out when someone says I should respect something that is not worthy of my respect.

Romans 13:1-7 (NIV)

1Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.

Many Christians think this means any government. Is that really what this says? It says “governing authorities”. What are the governing authorities for humanity? Did God establish man’s government or did God establish Nature’s Law?

2Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.

Many Christians believe that this passage means that as long as we follow man’s laws to the tee we will not be rebelling. Really? So when man’s law violates God’s law, we should still follow it? I don’t think so.  I hate to break it to you but by believing Jesus is the King of Kings, we break many laws of man on earth. So I must believe that once again this passage speaks of Nature’s Law.

3For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you.

I would like to note this first part. It says “rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those that do wrong.”  If we follow man’s law and we know it is wrong at times, how could this passage hold true if it is indeed speaking of man’s authority? It simply can’t.

4For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.

This passage speaks of God’s servant. I can look around the world and name a hundred leaders that are definitely NOT God’s servants.

5Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.

This was written by the Apostle Paul. How many times was he in prison and he did eventually die at the hand of the Romans. Do you think he was speaking one thing and practicing another? I don’t think so. So with that , can we think he is speaking of the authority of man?

6This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing.

There is something lost in translation here. I have serious issues with the changes from KJV.

7Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

Again, something is lost in translation.

I am going to post the KJV below alongside the Living Bible and you all tell me if you see the differences.

Romans 13:1-7

King James Bible

Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.

2 Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.

3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:
4 For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.

5 Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.

6 For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.

7 Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.

Living Bible

Obey the government, for God is the one who has put it there. There is no government anywhere that God has not placed in power.

2 So those who refuse to obey the laws of the land are refusing to obey God, and punishment will follow.

3 For the policeman does not frighten people who are doing right; but those doing evil will always fear him. So if you don’t want to be afraid, keep the laws and you will get along well.

4 The policeman is sent by God to help you. But if you are doing something wrong, of course you should be afraid, for he will have you punished. He is sent by God for that very purpose.

5 Obey the laws, then, for two reasons: first, to keep from being punished, and second, just because you know you should.

6 Pay your taxes too, for these same two reasons. For government workers need to be paid so that they can keep on doing God’s work, serving you.

7 Pay everyone whatever he ought to have: pay your taxes and import duties gladly, obey those over you, and give honor and respect to all those to whom it is due.

I borrowed the above comparison from HERE.

Is Paul actually speaking of civil government? The difference in these versions makes me think he is not at all. Back to my discussion with my friend. Should I as a Christian respect an office that repeatedly defiles God’s Natural Law…to the extent that those under it feel fearful and oppressed? Should I follow the laws of man blindly with no regard for God’s law? Let’s see what the good book says.

Acts 5:28-29

28Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.

29Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.

I don’t think it can get any clearer than that. I refuse to respect an office that has spit in the eye of God’s Law. I will obey all laws that are not against God’s and the only authority I recognize is that of my Lord. In doing that, I honor my Father and fear no leader but mine and that is a fear of humbleness and awe…not oppression and slavery.

What say you?

Peace, love and God’s will

About Diane Graham

Diane Graham lives in the mountains of eastern Oklahoma with her husband, children and many dogs. She is an avid reader and lover of all art forms that encapsulate imagination and goodness. Her debut novel I Am Ocilla was released in March 2012.

27 comments on “Respect My Authority?

  1. I concur. Well done and well backed with God’s Word.

  2. Interesting. I started reading assuming I was going to disagree with you. However, your argument is very thought provoking. Let my feeble brain percolate upon it for awhile, and we’ll see what it renders.

  3. I must admit that I have struggled with this in the past. I am at an interesting place right now. I would have to disagree with you. My understanding of that passage would cause me to stand on the side of respecting all governing authorities. I do believe that God allows, or even places all persons of authority in their place. Do I understand it? No. I am not saying you are wrong, but just that I differ. The way I see it, the passages before this one tell us to be kind, and loving to all, and not to pay back evil with evil, and to bless those who persecute you. I am reminded of Jesus saying “give to Ceaser what is Ceaser’s”, and submitting to an authority of man that had none over Him. Again, I am not saying you are wrong, or arguing your point, just answering the question at the end of your post. I see throughout history God using powers and authorities that were not “His people” to discipline “His people”. I believe that it i God business who is in power, and their responsibility to use that position for His glory, if not, they will have to answer to Him. As a Christian I am supposed to respect everyone, not just civil authorities, but all people. If we can’t respect the one who rules the country differently than we think one should, how can we expect to bless those who persecute us? I think Peter’s response to them in the Acts passage was not only bold, but respectful. Sure they were going to submit to the Ultimate Authority, but they didn’t cuss them, or say anything other than, “who do we listen to, man or God?” In everything we do, love must be the motivation. Lack of respect, shows lack of love. My question is: How can we love someone without respecting them? Whether or not the Romans passage is talking about some other authority, we are still called to love everyone. Even the president, even the hangman, everyone.

    • I see what you mean, Mauricio. What I must consider is this. Was this passage written for only the United States of America? Nope. So by what you are saying, the Jews should have respected Hitler? Really? I can respect and love life without respecting and loving the actions of the individual. Love for life is for God’s glory. Just because God allowed a man or woman to take a place of power does not mean God put them there, does it? Do we actually submit to man or do we submit to the will of God?

  4. As Lady Di knows, I write a lot against the governmental decisions and policies of Barack Obama. I have prayed and prayed asking God to take away that boldness but still feel HIS UNCTION to continue to speak out on paper what the spirit moves me to say. God gave me a gift for writing as he has most of the ones that read this. I do not write personal attacks. While at Mardel’s not too long ago, I prayed for just the book that I knew that God wanted me to read. He led me to a book all about the government that a Christian should only have alligience to and that is God’s government. From the very beginning of time Adam and Eve were supposed to govern the earth using God’s principles and policies. While growing up, every time I would see a holocaust movie , I would always ask God (without truly knowing who he was) why he allowed the Jews to be slaughtered by Hitler. When I started having an intimate relationship with God , He answered me. The Jews went willingly under the rule of Hilter. God is not a puppetmaster. We have a free will. Why did they just not fight back against this evil regime? The Warsau Jews did. Since I found out that my grandfather was a German Jew only a few years back, I am so proud that his family got him out of the country during World War I. Our lineage would have been non existent if it were not for my great grandparents going against the brutal government . I pray for Obama every single day. But I will not respect someone that is deceptive. That lies. That only wants us to be under control and dictatorship power. Israel will not ignore this time around. I will respect a Godly leader. All God commissions us to do is to pray for our authority, love them and wish them no harm. And to come under his government, his kingdom. Great , great blog Diane. It is timely , because I believe that God is positioning people like you and me to speak out. We believers know that time is short…there are so many that need to hear the good news. When I worked the voting polls I saw so much fraudelent voting . People voting more than once. There is no way to truly know who voted where once those votes are cast. Yes, God allowed Obama to be elected. But that is to bring us to the foot of the throne of God. He is giving us this chance to turn to him as a nation and unless we are jolted from our slumber, we will allow atrosities to happen to our future generations and to our liberty. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness….

    Although I could probably write in the whole book, here is an excerpt of from “God’s Big Idea” by Dr. Myles Munroe.

    “One time not long after national elections in the Bahamas, someone asked me in an airport, “What do you think about your new government?” I replied , “I only have one government.” It doesn’t matter who occupies the prime minister’s chair or the Speaker of Parliament’s chair or the governor’s mansion; it doesn’t matter who sits on the throne and is called king or queen. There is only one government, and it belongs to Him whose throne will never move or be toppled: Almighty God , the King of Kings and Lord of lords. His rule in Heaven is eternal , without beginning or end. But He also created the Earth and established His Kingdom there as well. The Bible says, “For the foundations of the earth are the Lord’s upon them He has set the world (I Sam 2:8b). The words earth and world often are used interchangeably, but here they refer to two different things. Earth refers to the place, the physical planet on which we reside, while world refers to order or governing affairs. God created the physical Earth and then set on it the “world” of His GOVERNMENT and divine order. Earth, then, has to do with location, while world deals with who is running things……

  5. If you have access to THE COMPLETE JEWISH BIBLE* by Stern, you get an even clearer (in my mind) picture of what Diane is saying her, from a Hebraic perspective.

    *if you’re unfamiliar with this translation, it is popular among Messianic Jews and Christians seeking their Hebraic roots of the faith; where Dr. Stern has translated the ancient documents from a believing Jew’s perspective, bringing his scholarly knowledge of Jewish history through the eyes of the Holy Spirit. It’s a good translation to have on hand when digging into your Bible!

    Here is the CJB text (I included verse 8 because it comes back around to LOVE)
    1 Everyone is to obey the governing authorities. For there is no authority that is not from God, and the existing authorities have been placed where they are by God.
    2 Therefore, whoever resists the authorities is resisting what God has instituted; and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.
    3 For rulers are no terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you like to be unafraid of the person in authority? Then simply do what is good, and you will win his approval;
    4 for he is God’s servant, there for your benefit. But if you do what is wrong, be afraid! Because it is not for nothing that he holds the power of the sword; for he is God’s servant, there as an avenger to punish wrongdoers.
    5 Another reason to obey, besides fear of punishment, is for the sake of conscience.
    6 This is also why you pay taxes; for the authorities are God’s public officials, constantly attending to these duties.
    7 Pay everyone what he is owed: if you owe the tax-collector, pay your taxes; if you owe the revenue-collector, pay revenue; if you owe someone respect, pay him respect; if you owe someone honor, pay him honor.
    8 Don’t owe anyone anything – except to love one another; for whoever loves his fellow human being has fulfilled Torah.

    Here is Stern’s commentary (abridged): p.429, JEWISH NEW TESTAMENT COMMENTARY
    (I will translate some of the Hebrew when I type this out. Brackets are mine [ ], parentheses are his ().)

    “Having discussed believers’ relationships with each other and with nonbelievers (12:4-21), Sha’ul [Paul] naturally turns to how they should relate to the chief external institution, the state (see also 1 Peter 2:13-17). His advice, which can be seen as an application of 12:21, corresponds to Judaism’s “Dina dimalkuta dina,” Aramaic for “The law of the kingdom is Law”, [Law] to be obeyed as if God had commanded it.

    Does this mean that believers should obey the wicked laws of an evil government–the Nazis, the Communists, other totalitarian regimes? No, because this rule does not stand by itself in Scripture; it must be set against Acts 5:29 (“We must obey God, not men”) when the will of the state and the will of God conflict. The early Christians refused to offer incense to statues of the Roman emperor because such idolatry would have been disobedience to God; they paid with their lives. Jews too have been martyred “‘al kiddush hashem” (“for the sake of sanctifying the Name” of God; see Acts 7:59-60 note) when they refused conversion to a Christianity which was incapable of communicating either its truth or its Jewishness, with the result that Jews perceived it as idolatry. The implications of Scripture for civil disobedience in the modern sense–that is, for a moral cause, presumably also a selfless one–deserves attention that cannot be given here.” [End Stern’s Commentary]

    Stern goes on to say about verse 7, that when Richard Wurmbrand (a Messianic Jew who was arrested and in Romania, tortured and jailed by Communists for smuggling Bibles into countries that restrict their production, use or import) was questioned about his beliefs on these verses, he said jokingly, “this evil government should be rendered a hard kick in the pants,” then finished saying, “the officials of that government should be loved since they are created in God’s image, the Messiah loves them, and we are t imitate the Messiah (1 Cor. 11:1).”

    ELLEN SAYS (that’s me) — take Romans 13 in context with the entire Word of God and it is obvious that we are to obey the mortal authority when it doesn’t conflict with God, but when it does, we are to obery God and possibly suffer the consequences of the mortal anger. And like Wurmbrand and Jesus said — we can disagree or even hate the evil of our government (nay, our president?), but we are to love the man, who was created in God’s image. Who knows for what purposes God has set up this authority in the USA? I have no doubt in my mind that it is to move us closer to the return of the Messiah. We have a strong belief in the Messianic Community that Yeshua (Jesus) is returning soon…

    bo adonai yeshua bo (Hebrew for “Come Lord Jesus, come!”…let’s everyone post that on facebook!)

    Love in Messiah,
    Ellen C Maze

    • Thanks, Ellen. 😀

      • Ellen , love the Hebrew translation, thank you for sharing that. And your thoughts are awesome!I read the amplified bible which is a combination of the original Hebrew and Greek translation. Really wordy. From what I am gathering from this book by Dr. Munroe these scriptures are based on the premise that Adam and Eve were to rule only with God as king. When they fell that is when manmade religion and government surfaced. Paul was speaking to the Romans. I studied this today and I realized that Paul was a Roman, remember he killed Christians . When he was converted he had to reassure the Romans that what they feared from Christians was unfounded. That the word taught to be subject to the law of the land. The word also teaches that wives are to be submissive under their husbands as the husbands are submissive under Jesus. If a husband wanted his wife to get into wife swapping , who is that woman to being under authority of? Her husband or under God’s?

      • And Jesus was a Jew but he went into the temple and knocked down their tables.

  6. This has become an excellent topic. I like Ellen’s last words. “Come Lord Jesus, come!”

  7. Wow, thought provoking blog, Diane!!! Like Kevin, I started out disagreeing with you, but was forced to examine my thoughts as I went along, especially as I read through some of the comments. Mauricio made some really good points that I thought helped to clarify things in my own mind.

    Although I still disagree to an extent regarding whether or not this passage is refering to just the laws of nature that God instituted, I think in some ways the root of it can be stated fairly simply: Obey God first and in all things; obey human authority as long as it doesn’t contradict God.

  8. Too much thinking for a sinus headache day! lol…

    Great post, Diane. I hadn’t really thought of it that way. I guess I really echo what Avily said. Obey God first, then man as long as it doesn’t contradict God.

    We lead by example…even to non-Christians. If we think we are about reproach when it comes to man’s law…we’d be sorely wrong. Now, if the law is getting out of hand and contradicting God, then it’s also our job to lead by showing how it is wrong–in love, of course.

    • Sorry about the headache, Ralene. Hope you feel better soon. I think it really makes God happy for all of His children to discuss the Word in a way that we respect each others opinions and know we all have Him in the center of our hearts.

  9. My dearest daughter,
    Well it seems as though you are more like your Mother than you think. Jump right in the middle and worry about how to get out later. LOL Guess that just goes to show our blind faith. The truth is the truth, is the truth. No matter how you serve it up. First off, I would like to address Mauricio’s statement about giving to Caesar that which is Caesars. If we read the whole verse.Matthew 22:19-20-21. 19 Shew me the tribute money, And they brought unto him a penny. 20 And he saith unto them,Whose is this image and “Superscription? 21They say unto Him, Caesar’s. Then saith Him unto them, ” Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s. Perhaps I see this scripture in a different light than some, but to me , I hear Jesus telling us that Caesar and God take different tributes. I truly believe that if someone is in office under God’s law then we will recognize it. Our Government was set up under God but has slowly but surely tuned it’s back on the Lord. No prayer in school, and abortion.These are just a few things.Taking the Lords name off the money,taking the Lords name out of many places where it was placed strategically by our forefathers. This country was founded under God. He was the backbone of our laws, now the Government is slowly and methodically taking the Lords authority out of what has been a great Nation. Without a backbone, we cannot and will not stand. Without God we are nothing!

  10. I am really disappointed that you would use a picture of an ape on a column generally about Obama, Diane. . It smacks of extreme racism and I think you are better than that. I’m sure you don’t feel that way.

    Personally, as a Canadian, I don’t feel I have the right to discuss American politics and as a Christian who believes in neutrality, I also would say nothing. But to use that particular picture in a column about a man like Obama, whom I happen to admire, makes me feel absolutely sick.

    By the way, Jesus also said “my kingdom is no part of this world.” He and his disciples chose neutrality and that is why I do. This world can not be fixed by any man or political organization. It will take the Kingdom of God that we all pray for to bring God’s Will to be done on earth.
    As to Governments being servants of God, don’t forget that when the Jews were God’s chosen people and doing wrong, God used pagan kings like Nebuchadnezzar and Cyrus as “his servant” to punish them. So I feel that passage means that all government’s today, bad or good, deserve our respect until God sees fit to bring this system to an end. I believe we are so near to the Great Tribulation, that it could be anytime now.

    Then we will see a time of peace and prosperity on earth such has been not seen since the time of Adam and Eve. “Your Kingdom come, your Will be done on earth.” That’s what I am waiting for.

    See. Rev. 21:3,4

    • I understand your point, Liz. I am not racist. I used the pic because it was the only one I could find with that saying. If it offends you, that was not my intention. I will not apologize for something that was not the heart of my intent. I did not mention a name for a reason. I think a handful of the last few presidents were fools. I refuse to respect an office that has not proven worthy for a long time. I stand on my opinion. I love you still, my sweet Betty. ;D

  11. P.S. Although used by God, the Babylonians went way too far in their treatment of Jews. So for that they had to be punished, which Jehovah brought about by the hand of Cyrus. God is watching the world scene very carefully and will punish all those who deserve to be punished at the War of His Great Day.

  12. On that we can definitely agree, lovely Diane. Look forward to reading your book.

  13. Interesting take, Diane. I don’t necessarily disagree with the idea that such passages go beyond the governments, but I do feel it is directly addressing governments in general. But I think you may be taking this in too black/white of a sense. That is, like a lot of such statements that are meant to be taken in generally as true, doesn’t mean they are true in all instances. I think these are one of the statements, and Paul had this in the context of his overall teaching on the kingdom of God being first who we obey, not the kingdoms of men. And I don’t think he is saying that in ever case, a particular government is good.

    It might be enlightening to consider King David’s treatment of Saul. He didn’t respect the person Saul had become, but refused to kill him or treat him with disrespect because he was God’s anointed ruler.

    I think there is a difference between respecting the office and respecting the person or agreeing/disagreeing with the decisions they are making. Even the president himself must respect his office, and some don’t. Naturally when the authorities over us conflict with God’s requirements upon us, we go with God. But we also don’t then fight the authorities over it. Like many martyrs in times past, they submitted to the authorities and were punished for it. They didn’t run, or try to fight them, but were taken and killed, usually after some period of painful attempts to get them to deny Jesus.

    In that way, they showed respect to the authorities God allowed to be over them, even if they were evil, just as David did with Saul. Showing due respect to the office doesn’t mean you agree with everything they are saying, or that you like them, or that you even support them. But when you do disagree, you do want them out of office because of the bad decisions they are making, etc., you do so respectfully as one God has allowed to be over you.

    But if you take the verses as speaking in general, there is no conflict with the issues you raised. Obeying where it doesn’t violate God’s requirements on us and showing due respect in all cases not because they are worthy or have earned it, but because God has allowed them to be there, for whatever reason.

    But a very interesting post and thought. Good job.

    • Oh, I agree, Rick. The reason I wrote this when I did is because I wanted to make the point that the scripture is not always black and white. And to take it out of context is what many Christians do inadvertently and many more non-Christians do intentionally. Quoting scripture is wonderful but when you take part of the whole and represent it as the whole you have serious problems.

      Thanks for stopping by. 😀

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