2017-03-18 / Religion

Operating from higher ideals

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. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 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, 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. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 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. (Romans 13:1-7 ESV)

One thing believers are pleased to realize is that we are called to something greater than normal life, even in the midst of normal life. Our lives and goals are in their simplest expressions transcendent, far surpassing what the natural eye can see or the natural sense can ascertain.

Think about it; God calls us to walk with him. That alone is defining and different. There is no ordinary normal for we who believe.

In calling men and women into salvation, God calls us to life, sight, light, freedom, newness, and purpose.

The Apostle Paul said, “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:13- 14 ESV)

We’ve moved from one rule and realm into another.

Hearing Jesus’ teaching and see Jesus’ authority exercised in miracles, a man declared that he would follow Jesus, saying, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” (see Matthew 8:21)

Jesus responded by saying, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.” (see Matthew 8:22)

At first glance, it seems Jesus is being heartless and cruel, but it’s much deeper than that.

You see, the man was using a common phrasing of the time to say, “Let me go home, stick with my parents until my dad passes away, get my inheritance, and then I’ll follow you.”

Jesus boldly tells the guy to come out of that way of thinking and living. Jesus boldly called them man to live by a higher, less worldly, more godly ideal.

The call for the believer is to be in the world, but not of the world. We operate in this realm, but with principles and power from a source much higher than this world. God calls us out of dead, dark system and into a living system of love, truth, and light. That’s not literary idealism; it’s the normal Christian life.

The problem with reading the Bible is it runs all of our spiritual flab through the grinder of holiness; it challenges our apathy and complacency; it smashes our comfort clich├ęs; it fires out the dross, prunes the excess, grinds the dullness, and pierces us straight through.

Romans may be the sharpest spear in the New Testament quiver.

I said all of that to make these two quick points and bid you happy wrestling. Firstly, this passage never gives we believers any direct commands on what we are to do when governments and leaders depart from their God-ordained responsibilities.

Of this, John Piper says, “This text has implications for war and peace, dictators and totalitarianism, concentration camps and gulags, revolts and revolutions, laws and law enforcement, political activism and civil disobedience, elections and lobbying, voting and paying taxes, speed limits and seat belts, stop signs and baby seats. This is not a small text. It is one of those mountain peaks of the book of Romans that makes a reader dizzy with implications.”

Like I said, happy wrestling.

Second and lastly, we are always left in the beautiful tension of rendering. We are always rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and rendering to God that which is God’s (see Matthew 22:15-22).

Caesar’s realm is tiny compared to the beyondthe entirety-of-this-universe realm of God. Plus, we’re made in God’s image, so self is the chief thing we constantly render unto him.

From dead works to living hope, God calls us to live by ideals much higher than evening the best plans of man.

Tim Bowes is executive director of My Life Matters. Questions and comments may be sent directly to Bowes at twbowes.lightsteps@gmail.com

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