Saturday, July 9, 2011

Romans 13: Free, but not THAT KIND of free

Paul has talked much about the believer’s freedom and being the new man not under law. So it is no surprise that some folks say “hurray, Christ is my King, Caesar isn’t, I can ignore Roman law.”

Not so fast, there, pilgrim, Paul says. Christ the King has established Caesar the emperor, and all his little flying monkeys, too. The earthly ruler is God’s servant to punish wrongdoing, and we must submit to him out of conscience as well as self-protection from punishment. Oh and by the way – pay your taxes, too, to support God’s servants who give full time to governing.

Paul, Paul, Paul. I haven’t even gotten to your teaching about women in Corinthians and already I am asking: “what are you THINKING? Those arrogant, violent pagan bloodsuckers are God’s servants? Pay taxes as an act of conscience before God? I’d sooner die in the arena than help build one.”

But on reflection…… Paul knows that peace and good roads are good for evangelism. And he is realizing that the battle for the hearts and minds of average Romans will go better if believers are not perceived as snooty separatists, the JWs of their era.

And I’m not sure he is opposed to changing the form of government, provided the reform/revolutionary goals include submitting to and supporting the new authority. In fact, one might say that creating a new government of, by and for the people is honored and blessed by God BECAUSE it is the easiest for people submit and support.

Oh, and speaking of paying money – “let no debt remain outstanding.” To me the corollary to this is, “don’t borrow money unless you absolutely must, and pay it off as soon as possible.” This is true on the personal and national scale. America’s habit of spending too much and earning too little and borrowing the difference is already teaching us the truth of the proverb, “the borrower is the slave of the lender.”

As for the rest of the chapter – Paul is often accused of being clueless about the earthly teachings of Jesus. Vs. 8-14 show that to be untrue. The extended discussion of the Golden Rule and the need for holiness due to the impending return of Christ sound like paraphrases of the Lord’s gospel teachings. Whether Paul heard them directly from Jesus, or from Peter and other believers, is unclear and doesn’t really matter.

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