October 26, 2020
Let everyone be subject 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, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.
Much of the beginning of Romans 13 flies in the face of what we, as American Christians, have come to see as our right – the alignment of our government with what we believe. If we feel that right has been infringed upon, we consider it our obligation and responsibility to initiate change. In fact, the birth of the United States of America occurred under that very mindset.
Here is a link to the Declaration of Independence if you need a refresher. It’s confusing that the first two sentences of the founding document of our democracy say the exact opposite of Romans 13. Does the tension between those two passages alarm you, or make you uncomfortable? If it doesn’t, it probably should. They aren’t slightly different or subtly nuanced. They are opposite in every respect. That is confusing.
Unless . . .
If you have ever read the C.S. Lewis classic, “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” you might remember a helpful analogy. Towards the end of the book, Aslan, representing Jesus, is killed in accordance with the laws of magic. Like Jesus, he is miraculously resurrected, and his explanation is simple. There is magic deeper than the law. He says,
. . .though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backward.
As it was in C.S. Lewis’s amazing book, so it is for us. For many of us, our knowledge of faith and politics only goes back to the dawn of the United States, when God was used as an argument for revolution. But Romans 13 goes back even further still, to the very foundation of the concept of authority and submission. It says that God’s hand is always at work. That final authority is His, and His alone. It says that the government we live under, regardless of our geographical location or the era in which we live, is only in place because God established it. It’s a deeper truth that should allow us to respond out of faith instead of fear, hope instead of anger, respect instead of disdain. If it’s all up to you, then it probably appears the world is burning down around you, regardless of your political affiliation.
Romans 13 assures us this is not the case, but instead there is a deeper “magic” – government authority being created and given by God. Our hope therefore lies not in election results or political affiliation, but instead in God’s sovereignty.