Romans 13 is a tough verse to reconcile; and I don’t think I’m going to give a perfect knock out answer here today, but let’s at least give it a start. Here is the verse as noted in the NLT Bible
NLT Romans 13:1 – 6 1 Obey the government, for God is the one who put it there. All governments have been placed in power by God. 2 So those who refuse to obey the laws of the land are refusing to obey God, and punishment will follow. 3 For the authorities do not frighten people who are doing right, but they frighten those who do wrong. So do what they say, and you will get along well. 4 The authorities are sent by God to help you. But if you are doing something wrong, of course you should be afraid, for you will be punished. The authorities are established by God for that very purpose, to punish those who do wrong. 5 So you must obey the government for two reasons: to keep from being punished and to keep a clear conscience. 6 Pay your taxes, too, for these same reasons. For government workers need to be paid so they can keep on doing the work God intended them to do
Is it a matter of translation (e.g. King James vs NLT vs…)?
The words and phrasing become a little less explicitly “pro government” depending on the Biblical translation/version you are reading. Link here for the King James translation
What about other Bible verses demanding obedience to God and not man?
- “obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29)
- The sixth commandment “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13), repeated in Romans 13:9
- The eighth commandement “Thou shalt not steal” (Exodus 20:15)
Is it a matter of interpretation?
Is Romans 13 advocating that we all return to the belief in the “Divine right of kings”? Should the founding fathers never have rebelled against British rule? Should Chrisitians not vote for anyone other than the people already in power – – i.e. by simply asking for change, are we violating Romans 13?
I have a NLT Application Study Bible. It notes strong disagreement amongst Christians on how to interpret Romans 13 – – providing 3 categories of belief.
- State is corrupt – avoid as much as possible
- State has authority in some areas; Church other areas
- State is flawed, we should work to fix by bringing Christian leaders/principles into it
It concludes by saying we shouldn’t revolt/rebel unless the State’s laws violate the moral standards revealed by God.
Here is where I submit the entire essence of the State violates the moral standards of God.
Thou shall have no other Gods but me
Consider a question for a moment before answering; who do most Christians truly obey in everyday life – – God or their government? We know we shouldn’t steal from Peter to give it to Paul, but we do so via taxation. We know we should not provide monetary support for murder (abortion, aggressive foreign wars), but we do so whenever we obey the State and pay taxes.
Thou shall not steal
Unless the theft is done by a quantitative majority reflected in a representative voting process and also euphemistically called taxation?
Thou shall not murder
Unless the state conscripts or pays you to be part of its military and tells you to go kill someone who works for an opposing “God appointed government” which our “God appointed government” does not like; It matters not that the person on that side has committed no crime which would provide Biblical justification for his death. Oh, and if we accidentally kill a few innocents while going after these bad actors, this is unfortunate “collateral damage”, and certainly not murder. So sayeth the Lord?
The State is inherently evil
Simply stated; The State is aggressive violence. The state is theft. The State is murder. The State demands your obedience – – and expects your compliance even if it violates your religious faith – – for all practical purposes, the State demands to be your God.
The state is some of the most anti-Christian sins propagated on a grand scale.
It is easy seeing some of the most eggregious historical examples where obedience to this entity which was supposedly annointed by God would be questionable and/or outright immoral.
- 6 million Jews should obey and get on the train cars carrying them to their slaughter by the Nazis
- 7 million Ukranians should obey Stalin and comply with his plan to starve them all to death
- Slaves should obey their masters
- Whites should return the runaway slaves (US fugitive slave laws)
- US and British pilots should firebomb the innocent residents of Dresden, Tokyo
- US Pilots should annihilate hundreds of thousands of civilians in Nagasaki and Hiroshima
- It is not theft or enslavement if the State takes 100% of your labor via taxation in the name of egalitarian communism
- There is not problem or concern that there are Much fewer Christian churches allowed by the new State rulers in the US “emancipated” Iraq
We could easily go on, and on and on….
We see less severe levels of sin more and more often in the US government here domestically more often as well. Cops brutally beating someone who didn’t show the proper respect/obedience and the cop receives no punishment at all. Police seizing property of innocent people convicted of no crime (through loose civil asset forfeiture laws). Gay couple suing to force a church to marry them. Kids being taught extreme secularism in the government schools; teachers fired if they say “Jesus” at all.
And on, and on,…
Borrowing a thought from my brother Lee – –
Think about it though: Let’s say we have a moral obligation to be subject to “authority” and obey their commands. These people of “authority” are regular people up until they are later deemed to have special rights and powers after going through a pseudo-religous political rite (e.g. elections, voting, inaugurations here in the US). These “authorities” often demand their subjects commit/support evil things. It follows then we have a moral obligation to do that which we think is evil, and evil then is really actually good, righteous, and Godly. This turns objective morality completely around on its head. It makes no sense. It’s actually really silly, if you ask me.
What are your core Christian beliefs, and do they reconcile with the State?
The Bible allows instances of defensive force to be used to protect person and property, but nowhere does it allow or condone us to commit individual aggressive violence upon another innocent person (aka The Non-Aggression Principle). I believe this biblical standard holds regardless of some other human issuing commands while claiming the mantle of “authority”.
I have chosen to believe the core of what Jesus and the Bible teach is faith and obedience in Christ as our savior. Avoid sins against God. Love thy neighbor. I believe all of these things are directly opposite to the State.
For more reading
I would encourage you to check out LewRockwell.com. It has a number of authors who are hard core Christian anarchists (i.e. anarchist meaning zero State). You can also do a intra-site search on Romans 13, and you’ll see dozens of blogs or articles which try to parse it out in better detail and logic than I’ve done here.
One in particlar is linked here from Laurence Vance