Romans 13 Devotion

I have been pondering some things from this chapter for several weeks now. I’m not sure I have thought through everything but I think it will help me to write out what is rolling around in my mind. It’s possible this will start a conversation that will help develop more thought on this which is how it has most often worked throughout history. Theology is usually not done well alone but rather in community. Conversation and discussion usually benefit us all.

The role of government in the world is important. It seems clear that God has ordained authority to this institution for the purpose of punishing evil and promoting that which is good. Paul instructs believers to submit to these authorities on the basis that all authority is from God and to resist your government is to resist the ordinance of God.

In every position of authority: government, pastor, husband, teacher, boss, etc. should be obeyed unless they are leading us to sin against God our ultimate allegiance. We should desire to be led in righteousness which means we have a disposition toward all human roles of authority to submit gladly when what you are asking me to do or not do what is right before God. There’s more that needs to be said here but I have other interests to discuss.

I can’t imagine life without government. As bad as we think it is sometimes, it really is a good thing for the world in many ways to restrain and punish evil. I remember the marriage debate several years ago brought up a point I had never thought about. Some were saying that marriage didn’t need to have civil laws. If that were so, it would have ended the redefining of marriage. But marriage needs to be governed by civil law. Why? Because when the relationship breaks, there must be some rules for taking care of the broken pieces–dependents (children and spouse).

Civil law may not change the heart of the husband who walked out on his family but it will make him pay child support. Government’s role seems to be to manage the hard heartedness of people. The conscience of people are different (which could have been trained for good or bad by the laws of the land) and cannot be trusted to cause people to do the right thing.

You might recall a discussion Jesus had with some of the Pharisees about whether it was lawful to divorce. Creation design was for one man and one woman to marry with death being the only separator. However, because of man’s hard heart Moses wrote a certificate of divorce. The one(s) abandoned need to be cared for. It is wrong to divorce but it is also wrong not to take care of those who were left stranded.

With that said, I would like to suggest something that might help hard heartedness. I give this suggestion knowing it is not the answer to man’s greatest enemy–sin. Jesus offers you forgiveness if you will repent and believe in him. The gospel is the answer. But what about those who will never believe the gospel? Is there anything that can be done for some peace and order in this world? Are we not to love our neighbors and our enemies?

Well, I think God ordained government for that. Yet, many government officials are not followers of Jesus and their hearts are hard as stone. And even so, disciples of Jesus are not beyond hard heartedness too. So, how might we work on our hearts?

I was watching an old FBI show that reenacted old cases. The story was horrific. It involved the murder of children by their own father. Their bodies were eventually recovered from their watery grave. One of the FBI agents said that he was able to detach himself from most cases but this one was different. I will not describe the details but when he saw the recovered bodies it broke his heart. He could not detach himself from what he saw.

To do that job, I guess an officer must become somewhat hard hearted to survive…to function. I can’t imagine seeing those things and having to work on that case for however long it needs. How do you sleep at night? How do you remove those images from your mind? What about the recovery team: fire/rescue, divers, EMT, and all who were involved in this one case? How do you make it when they see so many bad things everyday?

What about the police officer who has been on 15 calls that day and everyone of them were horrific? How does that officer go to the next call with a heart that is not as hard as stone? How does an officer think with sound judgment for each call and sometimes it must be done quickly or die? Can you see how (yeah it’s not right) simple traffic stops turn into more than they should have?

What about the pastor that gets visits from “regulars” who always need some financial assistance? How should I respond to someone I have never met before who needs help? Doesn’t this person deserve my unbiased consideration? What if it has been a 100 times the way it most often goes? Do they deserve for me to profile them into those 100 typical cases?

What about the mom who has two toddlers in the home and it seems like all day long she is saying “no” and handing out discipline all the while being so tired? Then her husband comes home from work and she bites his head off!

The examples are as numerous as there are hearts in this world. We are all prone to hard heartedness. Every call a police officer goes on deserves clear and unbiased attention. Every visit, the pastor should be eager to listen and discern what is going on. And each mom should not treat her husband like a toddler and the husband should leave “work” at the office when he comes home.

So, how can that happen? I think there is a clue to helping our heart not become so hard in 1 Peter’s parallel passage to Romans 13.

(1 Pet. 2:14) …to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.

Here is what I want to point out. If I were a chief of police I would require that my officers not ONLY look for those breaking the law but those following the law. When all you do is look for criminal activities in every person you come in contact with you might CAUSE the one who has done nothing wrong to do something they would not have done if you would not have been looking for evil. The officer needs to see good and praise it.

I know it sounds too simple but our hearts need to see beauty. Our hearts need rest. God designed each week to have a day of rest. Vacation should be a short devoted time to do both of these things. Sabbaticals are sometimes necessary after long periods of traumatic events. In some cases, the pastor or officer might need to look into doing something different for a while. However, you cannot stop being a parent. You must work to see glorious things in those toddlers.

I doubt this can be done, but police officers need to be monitored. There could be a rotation within the department to help with hardness of their hearts. Require the officers to report at least one good thing they saw that day. More training on the warning signs of those who are on the edge of destruction. Laws or department rules that allow the heads of departments the permission to do something about these problems.

I don’t know but I think we can easily focus on a small percentage of what any of us are doing and turn a blind eye to the larger percentage of that which is good around us. And furthermore, we are NOT machines! We are not meant to function detached from reality. Every real person needs an officer or pastor or boss or spouse to be real with them. To listen. To learn. To understand. To look for good and not just the bad (which you will always find in every person because we are evil).

I probably will never make any difference in society at large with these suggestions. But I can help and be helped by those near me: family, friends, fellow workers, neighbors, etc.

I would like to end by asking you how your heart is. If you are a police officer, are you detached from reality? How is your pastor? Is he edgy and snappy? Dear mom…you need some time away from the kids. When life was crazy busy and the kids were small, my wife was scheduled to be away Saturday morning until noon each week (just a simply suggestion). Fellow employee…put some distance between your work and workplace. Leave it at the office. Do not get out of your vehicle until you have unloaded your work troubles. Leave them in the car. They will be there when you return.

If you need to talk, I would love the opportunity to listen. Leave a comment below and I will try to arrange something.

Until then, pull up a lawn chair tonight and count the stars above you. Google the details of just how big they are and be amazed!

About Jason and Kimberly

Jason is the former pastor at First Baptist Church in Greensboro, Florida. Kimberly homeschools our three awesome kids. We enjoy being together as a family in wherever so long as we are together! Grace and peace to you in the Lord Jesus Christ! View all posts by Jason and Kimberly

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