By the People (The Misuse of Romans 13:1-7)

The 2016 election was life-changing for many of us. I just read that 14% of Christians left their churches because of it. Many, many things bothered me (infuriated me, perplexed me, crushed me) during the election, but I’m going to try to stick to one topic for this blog.

After the election, I had no fewer than four Christian friends use their Facebook status to tell people not to complain about 45 so much. “We need to come together now,” one of them said. “We need to let him do his job,” another said. “It’s bothering people,” yet another said.

Aside from the fact that I have a HUGE problem with people passive aggressively telling me what to do with my own page, and apart from the fact that I suspect certain people didn’t mind the plastering of anti-Obama memes on Facebook walls, I believe there is a misconception about scripture at play here.

Romans 13:1-7 says:

13 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. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 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, 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.Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing.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.

I say “misconception” giving people the benefit of the doubt. Abuse is certainly a more apt word in some people’s cases.

When Paul wrote his letter to the Romans, Nero was in power. (Some scholars believe that Nero was still a decent chap at this point.) There was no vote to put Nero in power; he was simply named emperor by his great uncle, Claudius.

I was raised to follow laws. Unless those laws are obviously against the law of God, I still believe that I should follow the laws of our land. However, if (and this is debatable) not resisting in Nero’s time meant not speaking out, I don’t believe that “those who resist will incur judgement” applies in America the same way it would have in Rome in the year 57.

Our government is by the people. God has given our nation a totally different way of making laws and appointing leaders. Our speech, and that includes social media, is a powerful way to keep our fellow voters informed. I don’t believe there’s any call to roll over for the current administration. We have representatives to call. That’s the system God gave us. We have laws about impeachment. That’s the system God gave us. Every one of us has the power to create new legislation. Pretty great!

I have a feeling that some people think my daily commentary about this administration is divisive. Here’s how I see it. I am shining a light on every lie, every sexist or racist or dangerous deed or comment, in hopes of affecting the 2018 vote in the system that God gave us. If other Christians are opposing me in that task, I say it is them doing the dividing. This person placed by God into authority is indefensible by Christian standards in a way no president has been before him, and we have God-given ways to oppose him. If you don’t feel comfortable doing that, I can’t judge you, but if you are actively defending him or passively doing so by telling those of us speaking out to be quiet, I am not the same religion as you.

Let us part ways.

Advertisements

Day 58: Seeking First His Kingdom (61 days of worry-free devotions)

Well, Friends, we’re nearly finished. We have read almost every verse about His kingdom. In our first 57 days together I think I only deviated (significantly) from what I’d written in the book version on two days. Today I do so again. I wrote the book version in 2014, long before the crazy election we just had. Long before I marched. Our worries have changed, but the nature of worry hasn’t changed. The nature of God hasn’t changed. God’s prescription for worry hasn’t changed.

I hope that our voices are heard. I hope that our checks and balances check and balance. But I don’t trust in those things. I trust in God.

That’s what I wanted to say instead of explaining the context of today’s verses. I present them here and trust God’s Spirit to say much more than I ever could about them.

And [Jesus] was saying to them, “Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who shall not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.”

Mark 9:1

“Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who shall not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”

Matthew 16:28

Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is! or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.” 

Luke 17:20-21

What kingdom truth will you replace your worries with today?

M.L. Millard

*New American Standard Bible verses used in the book version of this devotional with permission from The Lockman Foundation.

 

 

The Ideal Church, or Where is Day 44 of Seeking First His Kingdom?

Hey everyone,

Day 44 is something I’m happy to have you read if you have the book version, but it’s controversial, so I don’t really want to open it up for online debate.

So I’m going to talk about something else that’s been on my mind. What would your ideal church be? When would it meet? Who would speak? What kind of child care would it have? Would it collect money for missions? What kind of missions? What kind of music? How often would you take communion? Where would you baptize people?

I’ve been grappling with something for a long time. It’s hard to find the exact kind of church you want. I’m not talking about the problems that come from meeting with any group of people, like debates about service times and who volunteers the most. I’m talking about the core structure of a church. For a long time I’ve wished that church was on Saturday (the real Sabbath) and I find sermons to be both redundant (what with the sermons we can read and watch on the internet) and impractical (as large congregations of people need to hear very different messages).

Recently, during my great sadness about the churches of America’s abominable silence with regards to a certain orangey, perverted, hate-spewing candidate, I started thinking about all the things I’d always wished for in a church, and I realized that there’s no reason I can’t start one myself.

So, if it happens, it will:

1) Be on Saturday mornings

2) Have no child care (Children would stay with parents and be allowed to make kid sounds. Church will be short.)

3) Start with music

4) Have out-loud Bible reading instead of a sermon

5) Include 10 or so minutes of silence (except for kid noises)

6) Not collect money or have any paid staff

7) (To be written later, something about how I’m liberal but you don’t have to be. Something about equality, loving refugees and whatnot. Not that there will be specific programs for these things—it’s an informal gathering after all.) Don’t you love how I post my blog while I’m still in the brainstorming process? Hey, maybe I’ll call it A Church With No Name.

I don’t know if I will make this happen, but if I can find a space to use (it could even be outside, held only when weather permitted) I say why not? Maybe there are others looking for the same kind of informal, Bible-heavy, relatively short, Sabbath day meeting.

If you don’t live near me or aren’t interested in such a group, it’s not a bad exercise to think about what your ideal church would be. Most people are not going to start their own church, but they might start a new ministry within their church, or a new Bible study group, or simply rethink their priorities.

Tell me in the comments, what would your ideal church be?