Christians and the State
In this section, we come to Paul’s teaching on the Christian’s relationship to the state. How we understand this relationship has direct bearing on our view toward the state in terms of our support, our attitudes, and our obedience.
Our inclination is to be skeptical and to disdain our governing authorities. This is for a couple of reasons. One is that we find them less than perfect (at best) and corrupt to the core (at the worst). There is a reason we call Washington DC, home of our federal government, “the swamp” and cheer at the calls to drain it. We see corruption in every branch and it sours us, fueling our skepticism and disdain.
The other reason is more foundational than that, however. It isn’t only the corruption of our authorities that has us wanting to throw them off, it is our own corruption. We don’t want anyone governing us. We want to be our own authority. The romantic way to view it comes from the last line of WE Henley’s famous poem, Invictus,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.
A more blunt way to put it comes from Isaiah, “each of us has gone his own way.” It started in the garden of Eden when Adam and Eve rebelled against our Holy God. We understand well the desire to be free from the governing authorities over us.
Paul challenges us in this when he writes, “be subject to the governing authorities.” So how is it that Paul can exhort us to do this and what does it look like?