Led by Love
“Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.” - Romans 13:5
Let’s be honest, we’re not so good at submitting to authorities. How many of us use the Speed Limit as more of a a suggestion than a rule? I know that’s me… except in school zones.
For a country founded on throwing off the mantle of what was viewed as the unjust authority of a tyrant king, submitting just isn’t in our DNA. But it goes beyond that. The roots of our particular branch of the church, the Reformed Tradition, is all about bucking authority that wasn’t viewed as legitimate and truly ordained by God. And if we really want to go back, our fist ancestors decided that the authority of God wasn’t really as important as experiencing the fruit and the knowledge it brought with it.
On the one hand, we have scriptural and ethical warrant for standing up to unjust authority. On the other hand, we’ve been bucking proper authority from the beginning, which means we’re not always astute at understanding what is and is not proper authority.
Deep down, we usually submit to the authorities we like, and buck the authorities we don’t like. When the laws benefit us, we follow them, and when they don’t… we’re less concerned. When the speed limit inhibits me from arriving on time to my destination…
We’re a week away from Thanksgiving, the biggest holiday and the biggest travel day in the US… and our state authorities just handed down one of the most challenging restrictions yet. If you travel outside of the state, basically anywhere, you need to either quarantine for 14 days upon return, or have a negative Covid Test within 72hrs before returning. For many people, whose family is as far-flung as these 50 states get, that’s huge. We have family on each coast and several in between… and it’s pretty clear that we will be celebrating in person with none of them this Thanksgiving. And don’t even get me started about Christmas.
Some people might say, “This authority is unjust, I don’t have to follow it, this is a free country…” And they may be correct. It’s possible that our civil authorities are as illegitimate as King George was and it’s possible that our religious leaders are as corrupt as the Church that sold indulgences. In the face of these facts, you would have every incentive to throw off the bonds of oppression and act as you see fit.
The driving force of Paul’s instruction in this letter to the church in Corinth, is the driving force of Jesus’ life and the driving force of God’s action, so clearly spelled out in John 3:16. Paul, just a few verses later from his instruction about authority says this, “whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.”
My encouragement to you today, this coming week and this whole season, that as you wrestle with all of the instructions and authorities that press upon you, is to be led by love. Let that love be genuine, for those around you - your family, your friends, your neighbors. Act in love, with the best intentions of those around you at the center. When you do this, when we do this, we will have a much easier time understanding what and how to submit to the authorities around us, even in these trying times.
Welcoming YOU to Grow in Jesus,