Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
In our last reading, we learned that we brethren are the body of Christ. As a body has many members (hands, feet, ears, eyes, etc), so too do we possess different gifts and talents that work together to serve our God. We also learned to be compassionate and loving, and to overcome evil with good.
Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.
2 Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.
3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:
4 For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.
5 Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.
6 For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.
7 Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.
8 Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.
9 For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
10 Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
11 And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.
12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.
13 Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying.
14 But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.
The Rule of Law
Now we get into some hard teachings (for many). A Christian is called to be subject to the higher powers – that is, governing bodies, bosses, school teachers (if young), managers, and the like. Our God has created our world and sustains it; our God has put the Law in place and enforces it; our God possesses the highest authority and power in this or any other world. No power can exist without our God, and so it is true that all powers that be are ordained of God. If we resist the power God has given to those ruling authorities, we also resist God’s will.
However, this comes with something of a caveat, as these powers are now described. Rulers are not a problem for those who do good, but evil (though, we know of many rulers and authorities today that reward evil and punish godliness). If we wish to avoid punishment, we simply have to do good and we will be rewarded (provided our rulers be just and good). A good ruler is a minister of God, who works good to those who work good and evil toward those who work evil. Rulers of all types bear the power of the sword – that is, the power and authority to enact punishments which a normal man cannot (imprisonment, execution, tortures, taxation, etc) – in order to work their wrath.
Therefore, we must be at peace with the law not only for the safety of our bodies, but also out of submission to our God.
Now, before we move forward, let us ponder what this means in a Western and (at least ostensibly) democratic society. In the first place, as democratic forms of government put some authority in the hands of the common man, we bear some of the responsibility for ruling our country (if not most of its powers). It is our job to ensure that we elect into power godly men who will serve as ministers of God’s power and justice, and not wicked men who will punish the good and reward the wicked (for example, placing heavy fines on those who work in order to provide for those who will not, or punishing those who will not call evil good). If we do not do what we can to prevent such things, we bear accountability as joint rulers with our countrymen. For this reason, primarily, it is largely considered just and right under God to oppose our government when it conflicts with God’s word (through non-violent protest ideally – we are not called to vengeance, and it’s hard to find a mob that doesn’t destroy more good than evil).
Because good rulers are ministers of God, we pay taxes in submission to God as part of our daily worship. When our taxes are put toward good and righteous purposes, then we share in that purpose and have done good. When we pay tribute to whom it is due, we serve to both reflect our Lord’s justice and perform just service. When we display homage, fear, and honor to those who deserve it, we again reflect our Lord’s justice and continue to serve Him in our ready and joyful submission to His will.
Love one another
Jesus said that his commandment was to love one another. We call it the golden rule, and it summarizes all just and godly secular laws. Every commandment of God given to men, except those covered by the command to love our God, are summarized in this way; theft, false witness, murder, and covetousness are all things that we can easily identify as not-love. Showing mercy and charity, tithing, performing Christian charity, caring for family, adhering to one spouse, living in peace with everyone, and many more such commandments are also encapsulated by the command to love one another.
Love does only good and no evil. Therefore, love is the absolute fulfillment of the law.
The last day is closer every morning. We do not know the day or the hour, but it is coming, and it’s been getting closer for the past two thousand years or so. This is no time to be content to sleep in ignorance and wickedness; now is the time to awaken to truth and love. Our salvation is nearer than we think.
The night is over. The day is dawning, and so it is time to cast off darkness and live in the light. We must walk honestly as in the day, for thieves and murderers revel in darkness but honest men work in the light. Drunkenness, rioting, wantonness, strife, envy, and all wickedness seeks the shadows of night, but now we are bathed in the light of Christ.
Let us Pray
I lift up my eyes to the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip; he who keeps us will not slumber nor sleep.
Merciful Lord, teach us to submit contentedly and joyfully to the powers you have established over us. We know that the wicked seek power over your children in order to enforce wickedness upon us, but You are a mighty and just Lord who renders unto all their due in the proper time. When called upon to resist wickedness, Lord, we shall resist, but keep us from becoming ourselves steeped in wickedness, and hold back our hands from striking what is good and just. Let us not call good, evil, but instead overcome what we know is evil with what we know is good.
Sovereign Lord, ruler of all things, we know that you have called us to love one another. This is the second greatest commandment, following the commandment to love You, the Lord our God, with all our hearts, minds, souls, and strength. Help us to live in this love and walk always in the light of day, turning aside the practices and ways of those who live in darkness, knowing that the day is upon us.
Into your hands, o Lord, we place all things. Let it be as you will, now and forever.
May our Lord teach you all things, blessing you richly with the Holy Spirit, and giving unto you all good gifts in their time. Amen.