The last three U.S. presidents have had an emotionally polarizing effect on the electorate. When Bill Clinton was president, my friends on the right demonized him and complained about him constantly. They were in a bad mood for eight years. When George Bush was president, my friends on the left did the same. Now I hear it again from my friends on the right with regard to President Obama. All of this makes me think people believe politics are more important than they really are, but that’s a discussion for another day.
The apostles Peter and Paul lived under some bad leaders. Tiberius Caesar, who ruled from 14 A.D. to 37 A.D. was a pederast. His successor, Caligula (reigned 37 A.D. to 41 A.D. ), was a lunatic and tyrant, who made his horse a senator and was allegedly involved in incestual relationships with his sisters. Caligula’s successor was Claudius (reigned 41 A.D. to 54 A.D.), who, if you believe Robert Graves’s I Claudius, was the best of the lot. But he was followed by Nero Caesar (reigned 54 A.D. to 68 A.D.), who wrongly blamed Christians for the great fire in Rome of 64 A.D. (which some historians believe Nero actually set), threw Christians to the lions and made them into human torches to light his garden parties at the palace. Peter and Paul were ultimately put to death by Nero.
Yet here’s what Paul said about how Christians should respond to their government: “Let every person be in subjection to governing authorities.” (Romans 13:1). “Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.” (Romans 13:7). “…I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, in order that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all goodliness and dignity.” (I Timothy 2:2).
The Apostle Peter said: “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right.” (I Peter 2:13-14).
There’s a very practical reason the Bible requires we respect authority. Jesus reigns primarily through delegated authority, and as the kingdom of God advances on the earth more Christians will move into places of authority. The Biblical admonition of respect for authority contemplates the day when it will be Christians who benefit by that respect.
What do you think? GS