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Civil, Not Cynical

Lent 2023

Read Romans 13:1–7

1 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. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 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, 4 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. 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 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.

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities…. for he is God’s servant for your good. Romans 13:1, 4a

The law of love applies to all areas of our life. Here Paul’s focus in Romans falls briefly, but importantly, on the relation of the Christian to the state. As Christians, we always belong to two communities and have loyalties to both. The connecting point, the overall theme, is: “There is no authority except from God” (13:1). With that in mind, Romans 13:1-7 “accentuates the positive” with an attitude of appropriate loyalty to the government and respect for civil authority.

There is another emphasis for us: Governing authorities are “God’s servant for your good.” We respond by being civil in our citizenship. It is not helpful to be cynical about authorities. Our attitude is always that of a servant, seen fully in the person of Jesus, who “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant” (Philippians 2:7).

What civil authorities do in promotion of good and restraint of evil is definitely the service of God. The companion passage to Romans 13 gives it to us beautifully: “Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil; but living as servants of God.” (1 Peter 2:16).


Almighty God, grant in your mercy just and honest government and give us grace to live together in unity and peace. Amen.

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