Let us pray: Dear Savior, as we celebrate the birthday of our nation, let us also turn our gaze to You. Thank You for sending us a government where we are reasonably free to worship You in spirit and in truth. Thank You for protecting us from the ravages of evil. Yes, thank You for America! But may we also focus on Your goodness and trust in Your kindness towards us instead of merely putting our faith in mortal men. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE GIVER OF EVERY GOOD AND PERFECT GIFT!
TEXT: Romans 13: 1: “Everyone must submit to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”
Fellow Redeemed Patriotic Christians:
It happened in mid June. I was about 11 years old. We were about 4 miles out in the country working on our family vegetable garden alongside the little creek. One of my older sisters and I got into a spat about something long forgotten. I got so angry, I declared: “I quit! I’m going home!” My father got a wry smile on his face and said: “Have fun walking.” And so I did! I knew the way. It wasn’t too hot in the sun, yet. So I began trudging home. After one mile I started to look for the car. By about 2 miles I looked for it more. Finally, about a mile from home, they came by and stopped. “Do you want a ride home?” my father asked. By then I had to hold on to my pride, so I said: “No.” They drove off and eventually I arrived home, hot, sweaty and tired. We really never talked about it again and I never did it again.
As I look back over that event, I smile. I learned a lesson from my wise father. Today no doubt, someone would call 911 and report my parents for child abuse. But, it wasn’t. It was tough love in action. They knew I would be safe on those rural gravel roads. They knew I knew the way. That teaching tool got the point across, the point of acceptance and keeping my temper in check, more than any scolding.
God the Father is exactly that. He is our Father. He is wise and patient in dealing with us human beings. He wants to extend love and kindness to us at every turn. But sometimes, because of our waywardness, He has to get people’s attention and nation’s attention via tough love. If people accept those situations and learn from them, good things result. If they reject His tough love and harden their hearts to it and to Him, well, they reap what they sow.
The lesson before us today is a tough one to hear, a tough one to accept, and a tough one to put into practice. That’s because we live in a homogenized, liberal, anything-goes except hearing the word: “No” world. And yet, if we’re going to prosper as citizens of America and continue as a blest nation, we need to always keep this one thought in mind:
GOVERNMENT LEADS US TO APPRECIATE OUR GOD
St. Paul was a Roman citizen by birth. His citizenship came through his father. And it really meant something. Today in America, citizenship has been watered down. Basically the only thing an illegal alien cannot do in our country is vote. They can serve in the military, receive food stamps, get free medical care, and some even receive a state pension. And the rest of us citizens pay taxes to fund this largesse. I bring this up not to become involved in the current political debate over illegals and what to do with them. I bring this up as a point of contrast. In Paul’s time Roman citizenship meant everything. Only they could invoke the Roman judicial system and use it. Only they could engage in free travel across the empire. Only they had special protections against abuse and physical punishment.
Paul seldom used this trump card of Roman citizenship even when he suffered abuse and scorn and beatings from the mob of those opposed to his message of Jesus Christ saves. That being said, when he was finally hauled up before a Roman tribunal on charges of invoking a riot, and put into jail he did play his trump card. “I’m a Roman citizen!” And suddenly the authorities were nice to him, released him and treated him rather kindly.
Christ wasn’t an insurrectionist, even though that was the charge that sent Him to the cross. Paul wasn’t either. And although both ultimately suffered death from the hands of the governing authorities, neither one said: “You have no power to do this.” Both willingly submitted to the governing powers. Why? Paul tells us in our lesson: “for there is no authority except that which God has established.”
Mind you, Paul said those words about Rome. Rome wasn’t a democracy. It was a dictatorship. Caesar controlled everything. And the various Caesars of that time were cruel, petty, vindictive, and extremely unjust. And yet Paul lays out these audacious words and lived by them. So did our Lord Jesus Christ. Why? Because they are true.
At this juncture, your mind is whirling and objections are being formed. “Well, I can accept that when it comes to good government, but not bad ones. Why did God allow Adolph Hitler to arise? What about Stalin? What about Pol Pot of Cambodia and countless other really evil governments? Should the Christian submit to them? Were they established by God?”
Obviously this little text is a hard one to grasp and to follow. Moreover, over the years I’ve seen and read many theologians who did mental gymnastics to get around this problem of evil governments and how to react to them. Some just skip over this passage. Some say Paul was wrong. Some say that Paul was naïve. Still others say that God ordained natural law and only in-so-far as a government engages in living up to natural law are they to be obeyed. Now that’s a nice trick of the tongue, but the fact remains: Rome was an evil government that put Paul to death and he never said they had no authority to do so. Like Christ, he went willingly to his chopping block. Of course, as Christians whose first allegiance is to God, when evil governments tell us to engage in sin, we need to invoke our consciences and those pithy words of St. Peter: “We ought to obey God rather than man.”
God is not a God of chaos. He is a God of good order. Like any wise Father He has the big picture in mind—always. When people turn their back on Him and neglect His divine wisdom, like any decent Father, He engages in tough love and gives them what they deserve in the form of bad governments. He does this to wake them up and lead them to repentance. Other times, when people are faithful to Him He grants them good government. This is why Christ speaks of Christians as: “the salt, or preservative, of the earth.” For the sake of His elect He modifies the bad side of human authority and blesses His Christian children and through them the nation as a whole benefits, too.
Ultimately, there is no heaven on earth, or as Paul writes: “our true citizenship is in heaven.” Sin and human evil corrupt everything man touches, including government. So we should never seek true glory in any or by any human nation. Instead, we need to embrace the one thing that never changes: the grace of Jesus Christ. No one and no country can ever take that away from us. Forgiveness of sins, won by Christ on the cross, is always there to sustain us no matter how bad any society gets. So, I guess the truth of this lesson is really our theme: Government Leads Us To Appreciate Our God. Truly on this weekend, we appreciate our God for giving us a reasonably free government under which to live and prosper and most of all to worship the Lord of all presidents, prime ministers, and kings. And by putting Him first in our hearts and lives, by His providential care we and our nation will continue to reap blessings. God grant that to all of us! Amen