Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. 4 For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. 5 Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. 7 Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor. (Romans 13:1-7, NKJV)
We are having an election in Ontario, and I am torn up about it. You see I’ve always been a Progressive Conservative and have voted that way for years, but this year the Progressive Conservative Party elected a man I can’t get behind. Everyone is telling me to vote for the party anyway because the PC party is the closest thing to respecting “Christian values.” To vote in any other party would be akin to being “anti-Christian.” I have had people begging me to pray about it, which is odd because of course, I am praying about it, I'm just not getting the same answer they are. So, I'm told I must not be listening to God or hearing from Him correctly. To vote anything other than PC is not something a Christian should do in Ontario (apparently). FYI - there are no parties that are Christian or have Christian values. None. They are all corrupt.
But because the verse above has been quoted at me on numerous occasions in the last few weeks, I decided to dig a little deeper into my Bible about this verse, looking at the cultural setting and history as well as the context surrounding it. I also wanted to know where it says in the Bible that Christians should vote Conservative or if you are in the States, Republican. Not surprisingly, neither party is mentioned by name in the Bible except for this verse which I found hilarious:
A wise man’s heart inclines him to the right, but a fool's heart to the left (Ecclesiastes 10:2).
However, I did find myself in a bit of an “aha” moment, so I have to share it. You know the ones – you’ve been reading the same verse for years and seeing the same thing each time. You believe one way about it and then suddenly from on high the Lord opens your eyes and the scales fall off.
If you are a Christian Conservative/Republican, you are not going to like what I discovered. I was incredibly surprised that I never saw it until now. God gave me answers that have puzzled me for years about this verse. For example, I have heard Christians say for years (because of this verse) that God is ultimately the one who places Kings, Presidents, Prime Ministers, Dictators, etc. in their positions of authority. This has always made me feel uneasy because I can't see God purposely choosing Hitler to run a country. But now my eyes are open, and I know that when it comes to voting - God takes His hands away and lets the votes fall where they may. Like the rebellious children of Israel, who demanded a leader like the pagan nations around them (1 Samuel 8:7) God steps back and gives us what we want, much to our dismay.
Now before you start yelling at me and calling me a blasphemer let's look at this verse together so you can see what I discovered. First, a little history of how the Jewish people were governed at the time Paul wrote this letter to the Romans. In every city across Judea during that time if there were 120 men as heads of families in a city or town, then they had a local court called the Sanhedrin. These men were the elders of the tribes of Israel. The people would come to them with their disputes, which were judged according to the Laws of Moses (Torah). (Numbers 11:16; Deuteronomy 16:18).
In Jerusalem was the Great Sanhedrin (think of it as the Supreme Court for the Jews) so we have little courts in each city/town meting out justice and the big court in Jerusalem. For the most part, the Romans let the Jews govern themselves in this way, but they still had to submit to Roman law, and death penalty cases were brought before the Roman Governor (which was why Jesus was brought before the Governor Pontius Pilate).
Now, when Paul wrote to the church in Rome the words above, his audience was both Jewish and Gentile. But when Paul spoke, he spoke using the authority of the Scriptures he held so dear. It is believed Romans was written before the fall of the Temple in Jerusalem. So the Jews were heavily taxed by Rome and by the Sanhedrin who also collected a Temple tax. Worse, when they made their annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Passover Festival, the Temple charged them exorbitant prices for their offerings, which was why Jesus drove the money changers out of the Temple.
So we have the governing authority of Rome which had its laws, and the Temple authority. If we look at the verse above with the Temple authority in mind, it takes on a whole new light and the verses that made you pause and wonder what Paul meant, suddenly become clear. So let's look at it verse by verse.
Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.
There is no authority except from God leads many to believe that God has placed good and evil rulers throughout history to govern over us. If we go with that line of reasoning, we have to accept that Hitler was placed there by God. Nero, who burned Christians as torches was put there by God and every other evil ruler since time began was put there by God. If that is true, then why in the world would anyone trust in God? But, if the governing authorities were the members of the Sanhedrin, it begins to make more sense because the Scriptures confirm that they are placed there by God. It is also easier to accept that God appoints these “authorities” because it was their job to ensure the people obeyed the Law. But, even Jesus knew they were corrupt and said in Matthew 23:1-3, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do.”
Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.
Some Christians believe this verse is about resisting laws that are corrupt, that go against God's laws as laid out in the Bible. They see it as justification to stand up for their beliefs. Some, believe this verse is about obeying the laws of the land, so you don’t get in trouble with the cops or the government. And it is a perfect verse to follow so you don’t err on the wrong side of the law. But, what if the “authority” in this case was the Sanhedrin? Is it possible that Paul was referring to religious authorities in this verse all along? Let’s not forget how corrupt they had become. There was a reason Paul was talking to the Roman Christians about obeying the authorities. Jesus drove the money changers out of the Temple (Matthew 21:12). He often called their leaders names and pointed out their hypocrisy (Matthew 23:1-36). That’s why the people loved him so much. He took on the religious establishment, aka rulers, and held them accountable for their corruption. Paul wasn’t giving a pep talk on obeying Roman rulers; he was reminding his people that God’s laws governed them and it was God who placed those rulers (no matter how corrupt) in positions of authority.
Look closely - it says whoever resists them (the authorities) resists the ordinance of God and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. The word “ordinance” in Greek is translated as law or command. If the people were starting to rebel in regards to the corruption in the Temple, it follows that they would begin their rebellion at the level where it would hit the rulers the most – money. But Paul is saying that this type of behaviour is wrong and is a rebellion against God. In other words, it doesn’t matter how corrupt a government (or in this case the Sanhedrin) is, God still requires you to obey and respect it, or you will feel His wrath.
For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same.
The NIV phrases this verse in a way that is easier to understand, “For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong.” Yes, this verse can be applied to respecting the laws of the land, but when taken in context with the surrounding verses, it is more about appreciating the elders of God who handled disputes about the Laws of God.
For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.
Again, if we take this out of context, it gets confusing. Most Christians today believe that this verse says that those in power over us are God’s ministers for good. The verse goes on to say that those “ministers” are avengers of God, executing God’s wrath on those who practice evil. Somehow I can’t see Hitler as being a minister of God. So let’s look at this with the temple priests and the Sanhedrin in mind. Their whole purpose was to be ministers of God, to make sure that God’s laws were followed and to carry out God’s judgements based on those laws. They were literally avengers to execute the wrath of God as laid down by His Law.
Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake.
Taken out of context this verse could be about Roman rule. In fact, it is a perfect verse to apply to both religious and secular law. But Paul was reminding these Roman Christians that they must submit to the authorities in charge (the Sanhedrin) not only because of wrath (God’s) but to also keep their conscience clear.
For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing.
A Temple tax was required of every Jew. These taxes helped with the upkeep of the Temple and as payment for their services in hearing the cases brought before the Sanhedrin. God’s ministers (the Sanhedrin – not Herod or Pilate - or in modern terms, the President or Prime Minister) attended continually to the service of God in the Temple and its upkeep. But as Jesus repeatedly said and demonstrated when he walked among us, the Temple priests (the Pharisees and Sadducees) were corrupt. Do what they say, but don’t do what they do! Follow the law, but don’t follow their example.
Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.
This last verse gets very specific – pay your taxes, pay any tolls or customs fees. Respect (fear) those who have the power to bring fear, and honour those who deserve honour.
We can take this verse and apply it to the government and those in authority if we like, but if we do that we must place the blame at God's feet for knowingly putting evil men (like Hitler) in positions of authority. This is not something I can accept. Our God is a loving God and His actions from the beginning of time have consistently been those of a loving Father trying to guide His children to be holy and follow Him. It is much more likely that this verse is about the religious authorities of the day. However, knowing this, we can still apply it to ourselves today in regards to obeying the law and respecting those in positions of power. But when it comes to voting - God takes His hands away and lets the vote’s fall where they may.
Ultimately, we bring about our own destruction.
Have you ever noticed how the Apostle John started his first book? I'm sure you have as it's not hard to miss. He is clearly making a statement about new beginnings and he does it by using Genesis as his foundation. He is making two points very strongly by using Genesis. The first is a not-so-subtle message to the Jewish people - God has started something new - pay attention. He then follows that up with who he meant by God.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. - Genesis 1:1
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. - John 1:1
He begins when God brought everything into existence, but he makes it very clear that there was someone else at play - The Word. The Word was with God in the beginning. In fact, John says, "The Word was God." Now that would have had many Jewish people sitting up and paying attention. Who was this Word?
The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. - Genesis 1:2
Genesis 1:2 lets us know for the first time a unique aspect of God - He is Spirit and John continues to emphasize that The Word was with God in the beginning. The Word and the Spirit are one with God.
Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day.- Genesis 1:3-5
God divided the light from the darkness and John uses that example to explain how The Word was similar to the light God separated from the darkness. He explains that The Word was life and that life was the light of men. In other words, His life provided light and hope to all mankind. As God divided the day from night (light from darkness) so the Word acted in much the same way - providing light to those living in darkness. But sadly, not all those living in the darkness comprehended the Light and refused to come near it.
So, who was this Word that was also the Light and was with God in the beginning?
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’”And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. - John 1:14
He was Jesus! God incarnate who came to earth in a human vessel to lead us in the way everlasting. To show us how great the Light really is and to prepare a way for us to live eternally in that Light. Sadly, the darkness of this world STILL does not comprehend the love the Father has for them. Many are still trapped in the darkness and fog of not grasping the enormity of what God actually did for them. He came down to earth in human form. He lowered Himself to our level in order to raise us up to eternal life in Him.
Everyone can come into that light and partake of the joy of knowing Jesus. He died for sinners, not saints. In other words, He doesn't ask you to change before you come to Him, He simply says, "Come to Me."
I wrote a book many years ago, with that title, "Come to Me." It is a novelization of the life of Jesus as seen through the eyes of His mother. It's available in my bookstore. I wrote it because some people won't bother to pick up a Bible, but they will read a novel.
If you think Christianity is what you see out in the world today, if you think that is Jesus - you would be wrong. Jesus didn't involve himself in politics. He didn't call out specific sins or individual sinners over others. He didn't protest certain causes either. In fact, if he had any complaints at all, it was not directed towards government officials or causes. It was directed towards religious leaders and their hypocrisy.
So don't judge Jesus based on the way the media portrays Christians today. Read about him in the Bible or pick up my book and read about him. But find out about him. Get to know him as he is meant to be known. You'll be glad you did.
This post has been a long time coming. I feel that I need to explain to those of you who read my blogs, where I have been and why. First, I haven't been writing. At all. As some of you know, I have stage 3 lipo-lymphedema which is a painful fat disorder that affects my lymphatic system. It has resulted in an increase of congested tissue that I have running down my leg from my knees to my ankles. This is also painful and makes my legs immobile. If I want to go out my husband literally has to move my legs for me to get me in the car. So, needless to say I am finding it hard to concentrate on anything right now. On top of that, I have severe arthritis that has affected my spine which is degenerating and I also have meralgia parasthetica, (caused by the congested tissue) which feels like someone has picked a hot poker out of the fire and is constantly stabbing me with it. So, that is what is going on with me right now.
Do I need prayer? Yes, please! I am constantly fighting off depression, have increased insomnia because of the pain, and writing has become a thing of the past. I desperately wanted to finish my Bible Study on Revelation that I was writing, but I simply can't do it - right now. I have every confidence that if God wants it written, it will be written at the right time and not before. God knows what I'm going through and He knows what I am capable of (or not capable of) right now.
In the meantime, I am able to keep Interviews & Reviews up and running and it is providing a creative outlet for me (of sorts) in the form of writing book and movie reviews. So I apologize to everyone who has been coming here and expecting more. More will come - I just don't know when.
That said, today I once again missed church because of all the stuff I'm going through, but the wonderful part is that I can still attend online. Today, on Resurrection Sunday, our Pastor talked about hope. A message I desperately needed because sometimes when you are dealing with constant pain and sickness you start to feel there is no hope in sight. It gets depressing when every day is the same. It gets lonely when you have no Christian fellowship. You start to feel you have no purpose and you wonder, "Why am I here, anyway? What is my purpose?" So I needed the reminder that I am not living for today, but for eternity. And everything I say and do will have an impact on where I spend my eternity and how I will spend it. This pain is for but a moment, but eternity - well . . . it's forever! And this blog of mine may not reach a lot of people, but I know it will reach someone who needs a word of encouragement today. I am writing and posting it only because of Jesus, who is my hope.
My Pastor shared this video by Francis Chan at church today. If you are experiencing a life that "seems" hopeless and without purpose, this might change your perspective a little bit. I know it lifted my heart.
Happy Resurrection Sunday!
Ash Wednesday, for main-stream churches is traditionally the start of forty days of fasting to observe the Lenten season. I grew up in the Anglican church where it was observed, but when I married into the Baptist church this observance went largely unnoticed. If it wasn't in the Bible it was not something God ordained, so it simply wasn't a "thing" with Baptists or any or Bible-based churches.
Ash Wednesday and the Lenten season is a man-made construct but one that was created with good intentions. It is to be a period of reflection and preparation for Christ's burial and resurrection. It can be a very satisfying spiritual journey when done in the correct way. The forty days is in rememberance of Jesus' time spent in the wilderness, where he fasted and was tempted to sin by the devil, for forty days and forty nights (Matthew 4). But for many Christians this commitment to "fasting" has transitioned more into a second attempt at a New Year's resolution that was forgotten. Now people are goal setting (losing "X" amount of pounds in forty days) or giving up a luxury or guilty pleasure of some sort, (taking the bus instead of a car, or giving up chocolate). Sadly, what the church began as an exercise in growing spritually has devolved into how one can best help themselves for the next forty days. So today I am going to re-appropriate a post I wrote on the true meaning of fasting and share it again here.
This is what God said true fasting should like like:
“Is this not the fast that I have chosen:
To loose the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the heavy burdens,
To let the oppressed go free,
And that you break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out;
When you see the naked, that you cover him,
And not hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then your light shall break forth like the morning,
Your healing shall spring forth speedily,
And your righteousness shall go before you;
The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
You shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’
“If you take away the yoke from your midst,
The pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
If you extend your soul to the hungry
And satisfy the afflicted soul,
Then your light shall dawn in the darkness,
And your darkness shall be as the noonday.
The Lord will guide you continually,
And satisfy your soul in drought,
And strengthen your bones;
You shall be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.
Isaiah 58:6-11, NKJV
Jesus carried this teaching through to his disciples. He wanted to see a change of character in those who followed him. He taught the need of purity and simplicity of motive in our fasting. Yes, there were times when fasting was needed (Mark 9:25-29) and yes, private fasts were observed by Jesus (Matthew 4:1-11) and his disciples. Paul fasted to seek God's guidance (Acts 14:23).
Giving up chocolate for Lent or going on a diet for 40 days has no spiritual value. The value comes when you truly deny yourself for the sake of another, not so that you can be edified, but so that someone else can be. That's true fasting and it falls in line in regard to what Jesus taught us about denying ourselves (Luke 9:23) and loving others (John 13:34).
I read an interesting article the other day that has calmed my fears somewhat in regards to Justin Trudeau's recent attack on Christians. It reminded me that even people like Trudeau who think they are in control - really are not. God has the final say, and way before Justin came into the world, God had already set his plans in motion. Much like he did with King Nebuchadnezzar (see Daniel).
For those of you who do not know what I am referring to, let me get you up to speed. In Canada, we have a government-funded summer jobs program that is supposed to help local small businesses, non-profit, and faith-based organizations by providing wage subsidies to create summer jobs for secondary and post-secondary students. We have had this program for years. When I was a teenager, I got a job through that program, and that was over 40 years ago. Everything seemed to be running smoothly. Students got jobs and businesses, non-profits and churches were able to afford to pay them because of the extra funding. But this year Justin has decided to attack anyone who doesn't hold the same beliefs he does in regards to abortion. Simply put, if you are against abortion, you can't have any government funding.
The new application for the Canada Jobs Grant requires that businesses or organizations applying must respect the core mandate of “reproductive rights” along with other human rights, and unless that “attestation” is signed, the online application cannot be submitted. In other words, part of the core mandate of your business or church must be in support of abortion. If you don't believe that abortion is right, because of religious or even personal beliefs, don't bother applying.
That's right. We have a dictator here in Canada who is telling all faith-based organizations and churches that if they don't agree with his perspective on abortion and a woman's right to choose, then they can't have any government funding. The absurdity of this line of reasoning is that the organizations and businesses Justin is attacking, deal with compassion for the poor and the elderly, or feeding and clothing the homeless, or bringing help to those with addictions. None of which has anything to do with abortion!
When I was a student in this program, I worked in a Day Care Centre. I took care of babies and little children until their parents came to get them. But according to Trudeau, those babies and children will not have that extra care now if the Day Care centre doesn't have something in its core mandate that deals with abortion. Why in the world would a Day Care Centre have that as part of its mandate?
This is dangerous ground because what is the next step after this? Denial of pensions or medical care if I don't tow the party line? Trudeau says he is doing this in the name of "inclusion" and "tolerance," but to those of us who don't share his beliefs, his words sound more like those of an unstable dictator like Kim Jong Un.
Sadly, the people who would be helped by this program (like the poor, homeless and those struggling with addictions), will be the ones who have to suffer because of Trudeau's intolerance. Think about organizations whose core mandates are founded on Christian principles like The Salvation Army and Mission Services who provide food, shelter and clothing to those in need.
Stephen Wile, CEO of the Christian aid organization The Mustard Seed, had this to say to the Calgary Herald, "The Mustard Seed doesn’t take a position on abortion, but with the government making this a requirement for funding, it’s trying to force us from a neutral position to an affirmative position on abortion, and we’re not prepared to do that,” said Wile from his Calgary office.
“We’re not willing to support the government’s position in order to get the funds, it’s just not worth it for us."
“It seems,” added Wile, “like the government is saying, ‘The issue of where you stand on abortion is more important than the work you do and the people you serve,’ and that’s really sad. At the core of who we are, we’re really against fear and hate, and unfortunately, the government is taking a position that instead of decelerating division, it’s accelerating it.”
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