Let us pray: Dear Savior, thank You for giving us a government that we can live under in relative peace and harmony. Thank You for allowing us to live in America where we can practice our faith without the fear and danger that other Christians face throughout the world. Lord, today remind us of the civic duties we have as believers and also cause the nation as a whole to see and value our Christian contribution. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE LORD OF ALL HUMANS
TEXT: Romans 13: 1-10
Dearly Beloved By Christ:
Christians are vital to America! Today, you probably won’t hear those words anywhere else in America. But, that statement is true. And from our lesson I’ll show you why.
In all of human history you can boil down the types of governments to 3 or 4. The most common has been the strong man, king, or dictatorship model. Then, there have been experiments with religious leaders running the show in their particular “god’s” name. This is termed a: theocracy. Then there is communism or crass socialism, which on paper is much like the “Borg” of Star Trek days, but in reality is a variant of dictatorial rule. And finally there is democracy or representative government where common people have a say and some sort of rule of law is both adhered and applied to all. Obviously, America today falls into that latter category.
When St. Paul penned the words of our lesson Rome was a dictatorship. Caesar ruled and his word was the law. Yes, they had laws and some human rights on the books, but in reality the strong man was in charge. What’s more, Caesar was not filled with justice and morality but was venial, nasty, vindictive, and downright evil. 25 odd years before Paul wrote this passage, Caesar through Pontius Pilate had put an innocent Jesus Christ to death. In a few years after Paul penned this, Caesar would have his soldiers kill Paul with the sword. Christ knew all about this in advance. Paul had an inkling. And yet, here he is writing this: “Everyone 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. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong.”
Did God establish Caesar? Yes. Was God on the side of Adolph Hitler or Joe Stalin? No. Scripture answers as stated previously. God does establish all governmental authority. In doing so He sometimes allows righteous leaders to arise and bless a land and He also allows evil leaders to arise in order to punish a morally rebellious nation thereby leading to repentance. That doesn’t mean God is with such people or that He will bless their evil labors. Far from it! God always punishes sin. And as a counter-weight to such blatant evil God has given all humans His natural law, or the moral directives of the commandments written in their hearts. National laws are ultimately based on God’s moral law of: “loving your neighbor as yourself.” When evil leaders go against this law and unjustly govern against it, ultimately God will find a way to replace them. Meanwhile, to prevent chaos and uphold good order, Christians are to submit to our country’s laws unless and until they directly tell us to sin. When and if that occurs, then like St. Peter once said: “We must obey God rather than men” and willingly suffer the consequences. Meanwhile, Paul expands on our role within the state: “Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For 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. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but all because of conscience.”
Christ really said the same thing: “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s.” He never said Pilate could not put Him to death, but that God’s Law of the 5th commandment applied to Pilate, too, as Christ’s death sentence was unjust. The basic rule of thumb is this: be a good citizen and obey the laws and generally you have nothing to fear. Disobey them and flaunt them and you should be afraid! Meanwhile, as a Christian, we don’t just act out of fear but also out of conscience. Unbelievers basically care only for themselves and for others in so far as what those others can do for them. Christians care for all people. First, because Christ died for all. Second, because “whatever you do to the least of these my brothers you do it unto Me.” And third, because all of God’s commandments attest to how important human life is and how morality protects and upholds all aspects of life.
So now Paul gets very practical. “This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: if you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.” Put into modern terms, we the people get to decide through elections how big government should be and what amount taxes should be. But once a legal law is on the books, we should obey it unless and until it is overturned or changed. As Christians we never take the law into our own hands. We support the institution of government and honor the offices of power that people occupy because thereby all benefit, including us. Order is always better than chaos. However, we can and should be involved in our nation to either support or change the people in those offices, as far as individual conscience and legal means allow. In short, Christians Are Vital to America because: 1. We pay the bills and don’t cheat. 2. We obey the laws and never promote anarchy. 3. We abhor people who think the end justifies the means, or people who use violence for some supposedly higher “good.” And 4. We save the government a lot of work and effort in that we practice the moral law toward those in need, act the Good Samaritan, and truly exhibit love and compassion far better than most bureaucrats.
St. Paul sums all this up in his final words: “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not covet,’ and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”
Christians are vital to America! We save the state huge amounts of money by preaching obedience to its laws. We save lives by living and acting out the moral precepts of the commandments. We preserve those around us since as God’s salt, made salty via Christ’s sacrifice, as He blesses us, so those blessings—that salt rubs off on those around us. And finally, we are the tempering agent of unselfish, Godly love which continually seeks to blunt the hard edge of evil whenever it shows itself across our land. So thank God you’re a Christian and thank God America has you for a citizen. Amen