We are at a point in history where political beliefs have become very polarized and emotionally charged. It can be difficult to submit to those in authority, especially when they oppose our personal beliefs. It is even more difficulty when that power appears to be a result of political corruption. Because we feel so strongly about our political views, our first inclination is to fight against authority. But that is not what God would have us do.
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.Romans 13:1-2
It is easier to accept those in positions of authority when we recognize that God is ultimately in control. This simple fact, changes our perspective. They were placed in a position of power in order to serve God’s purpose. We may not see that purpose yet, but God’s plan is often visible only when looking back.
In the Old Testament, God used King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon to punish the wayward nation of Judah. The temple was destroyed and the Jews were taken into captivity in Babylon for 65 years. This was not a reward for Babylon, rather it was a reckoning for God’s people. When the temple was destroyed, evil appeared to triumph. Yet, God had other plans for his faithful remnant.
“For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.Jeremiah 29:10-11
After the nation had been punished, it was then time for Babylon’s reckoning. Babylon was conquered by Persia under Cyrus the Great. As prophesied, Cyrus allowed the faithful remnant to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple. In both of these cases, God carried out his plans through these human rulers. One was used for destruction while the other was used for reconciliation. Both were necessary to renew the faith of his people.
“This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: “ ‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Any of his people among you may go up, and may the LORD their God be with them.’ ”2 Chronicles 36:23
I’ve felt frustrated repeatedly by those in power. What felt worse was my own powerlessness to make a difference. Yet, God continues to remind me that his ways are not our ways and his thoughts are not our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8). When we do what seems impossible it brings glory to God.
But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.Luke 6:35
It doesn’t matter whether our respect, obedience, and kindness is deserved. We did not deserve Christ’s sacrifice for our sins, yet he willingly gave his life for us while we were still sinners (Roman 5:6-8). Our behavior is a reflection of our hearts and our attitudes. When we treat others with contempt or disrespect, we shame the name of God. We were created to be a reflection of his character, not of others in the world. When we bear witness through our actions we have the greatest opportunity to influence others.
Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.1 Peter 2:13-15
The corruption of power makes us fear that the guilty will go unpunished. We are afraid that their wicked deeds will never be exposed and they will continue to wield power. But Jesus tells us that there is no need to fear.
“So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.Matthew 10:26
We honor and show obedience to God when we give respect to our governing authorities. We should do all that is required of us regardless of our personal views.
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.Romans 13:7
Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?”
But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”
“Caesar’s,” they replied.
Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”Matthew 22:17-21
Looking back over history, there were many times when evil men seemed to victorious… at least for a time. But nothing is hidden from God, and a day of reckoning has always followed. Until that time, God asks us to trust him by waiting patiently for their time of judgement.
Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.Romans 12:19
It is not for us to pass judgment or condemn the guilty when evil seems to have the upper hand. That honor belongs to Jesus Christ alone. Instead, our role is to love our enemies, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give to the poor, and share the hope of redemption in Jesus Christ. No doubt some will try to exploit these acts of humility, mistaking them for weakness. But Jesus is our strength, and one day we will all be held accountable for the choices we’ve made.