October 30, 2020
This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.
Do you have a mortgage, car payment, or student loans? Do you pay rent, or buy groceries, or have a house cleaner? Have you ever considered just not paying your bills when they come in the mail, or trying to walk out of a store without paying for your merchandise? Apart from extreme circumstances, most of us would never consider not paying our taxes.
In these verses, Paul combines this obvious reality with one that doesn’t feel as immediately true. He says that in the same way we owe taxes and bills, we owe honor and respect to those in authority. To some of us, that feels downright un-American. We have the right to freedom of speech, which includes disrespect and rebellion to the powers that be.
Paul calls us, as people of faith, to lay down that right. Take the measure of your last conversation about Joe Biden or Donald Trump. Did you afford them the honor and respect that their office deserves? If not, consider how you could stay true to your beliefs and convictions and still offer honor and respect to authority. A good starting point is to remind yourself that our political figures are still people, still treasured by God, and are exactly the people Jesus willingly offered his life on the cross for. A good second step is to pray for them – and not the tongue-in-cheek prayers asking for their judgement or downfall. Legitimate prayers offering them before God as his precious children, deeply loved.
If you spend time doing those two things, you will find it impossible to hate and dishonor. You will also find your political conversations will reduce to a simmer instead of a boil. You will become a model of how to engage in proactive discussion instead of reactive argument. Take time right now to imagine your most hated political figure. Try holding their image up to the light of God’s love, and ask God to help you see them as he sees them.