Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Romans 13 and Civil Disobedience

I've heard several people cite the following verses to say we shouldn't be criticizing Trump:

Romans 13:1-2
Let every person be subject to governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.

What if those governing authorities are clearly sinning and commanding others to sin?

What if, say, God commanded Moses to tell Pharaoh to stop enslaving the Israelites and release them? (Exodus 3-12)

What if God commanded Samuel to criticize King Saul multiple times, and at times Samuel had to carry out the orders that God had commanded Saul to do, because Saul refused? (1 Samuel, 1 Chronicles)

What if God commanded Nathan to tell King David that having an affair and committing murder were terrible sins, leading to a very eloquent prayer of repentance? (2 Samuel 11-12, Psalm 51)

What if God commanded Elijah to prove to Queen Jezebel and the prophets of Baal that their idolatry was evil, causing Elijah to run for his life? (1 Kings 18)

What if God commanded Jeremiah to send a messenger to King Jehoiakim with a scroll full of the King's evil deeds, and Jehoiakim cut up the scroll and threw it in the fire, leading to God sending their kingdom into captivity? (Jeremiah 36)

What if God commanded Esther to talk to King Xerxes to inform him that the order he had rubber stamped to stamp out an entire people group was evil and murderous? (The book of Esther)

What if God commanded Jonah to tell the King of Nineveh that they were evil and destined for destruction - and God had to use extreme measures to get Jonah to obey and criticize the governing authorities? (The book of Jonah)

What if Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego engaged in civil disobedience by refusing to bow to the statue of King Nebuchadnezzar, and were thrown into a blazing furnace for it, but miraculously survived? (Daniel 3)

What if Daniel had to tell King Belshazzar that the mysterious writing that had just been written on the wall meant the following? "God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end. ... You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting. ... Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians." (Daniel 5:26‭-‬28) Belshazzar didn't survive the day.

What if Daniel directly defied orders to worship only King Darius, and got thrown into the lion's den, and miraculously survived? (Daniel 6)

What if Jesus - God in flesh - blasted the religious leaders for their hypocrisy, over and over and over? (The Gospels)

What if Peter and John told the governing authorities that they would not obey their command to stop spreading Jesus' message, saying, "Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him?" (Acts 4:19)

What if Stephen told the governing authorities that Jesus was right, they had murdered Jesus and Jesus had defeated death, causing them to stone him? (Acts 7)

What if Paul - who wrote Romans 13:1-2 - criticized the Roman authorities for breaking Roman law by beating him and Silas, leading to them apologizing? (Acts 16)

There are so many more examples, but those are the ones that come to mind. We are commanded to submit to authorities. We are commanded to pray for them. We are not commanded to refrain from criticism when they are wrong. Paul said to expose wrongdoing (Ephesians 5:11). Paul wrote Romans under the rule of the evil emperor Nero, known for his brutal treatment of Christians.

Now, what if many (though not all) of the people currently citing Romans 13 were some of President Obama's sharpest critics? What if they so recently defied what they themselves are now preaching? Is this hypocrisy not exactly what Jesus repeatedly accused the Pharisees of doing?

What if our current president claims to follow Christ, but claims never to have needed to repent of anything?

What if he repeatedly ordered his supporters to violently throw people out of his rallies while campaigning?

What if he has had multiple affairs and bragged about rape, later trying to pass it off as "bathroom talk"?

What if he openly mocked a man with special needs, and has repeatedly denied it despite video evidence to the contrary?

What if he has passed a temporary ban on thousands of people in mortal danger from fleeing to safety?

What if he is working to dismantle needed healthcare policies without first proposing a replacement?

What if he represses the freedoms of speech and of the press guaranteed in the First Amendment, by telling the media, National Parks, scientists and others to shut up?

What if he fired the acting Attorney General because she chose to follow the orders in the Constitution rather than the President?

What if he has inspired (intentionally or not) violent acts of racism, sexism, Islamophobia, Christophobia, homophobia, xenophobia, and several other phobias, throughout the US and even as far away as Quebec?

Again, there are so many more examples of how this man has been "weighed in the scales and been found wanting."


So what are we to do?

We are to respect the office of President.

We are to submit and obey what he tells us to do, provided that doing so would not go against the commands in the Bible and the Constitution.

We are to be upright, following God first, then the law, then the president.

We are to fight for the less fortunate.

We are to stay informed and fact check what we hear. Let's not automatically support or oppose what we hear based solely on the fact that Trump said or did it.

We are to pray fervently that God will give wisdom to President Trump, and lead him to repentance. We need to pray that Trump will become the wise and compassionate president that we need.

We are to hold out hope and not despair.

We are to remember that God is bigger and greater than Trump, and God will prevail.

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