Why Romans 13 Is Inapplicable to What Is Happening Now

In the Best Picture winning film from 1965, The Sound of Music, the von Trapp family lives in Austria when it is annexed by Germany during World War II.  The main conflict arises when the father, Captain von Trapp, is ordered to accept a commission in the German Navy.  Did he quietly comply because the powers that be gave him a command?  Should he have?  No!  He concocted a plan to disobey the rulers and flee the country.  What a different film it would have been if he had done what so many of our churches have done and obeyed his orders.

Ever since the California government terminated our liberty last year, I have been disappointed that so many churches quietly complied.  This past week I received an email from a local church, once again saying that they were going to keep their doors shut until we are endowed by our government with some liberty.  (That sounds wrong, doesn’t it?)  The reason given has been inappropriately used since the beginning of the lockdowns to justify compliance with tyrannical edicts… Romans 13: 1-7.  It says this:

1 Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. 4 For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. 5 Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. 7 Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.

Let me be clear.  I believe the Bible completely, from Genesis to Revelation, including Romans 13.  In fact, I talk about the importance of Romans 13 multiple times in my book, The God Bet.  There is, however, a big problem with hiding behind these verses to justify weakly complying during this fight between good and evil.  While we are not supposed to “resist the authority,” our government DOES NOT HAVE the authority to do what it is doing.  There are two main reasons for this.  The first is found in our founding documents.  The Declaration of Independence acknowledges that liberty is endowed not by the government, but by our Creator, and is unalienable.  That means that the government does not have the authority to take away our freedom on a whim. 

I know.  Some of you are saying, “Wait a minute.  The government does have the authority to take away our liberty in certain situations, like when they put a thief in prison.”  You are absolutely correct.  There are instances where the government can take away our freedom.  That leads us to the second reason this is not one of those instances.  Romans 13 not only tells us that we are subject to the governing authorities, but it also tells us what those authorities are authorized to do.  Verse 3 specifically tells us that “rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil.”  Verse 4 explains that “he (the ruler) is God’s minister to you for good.  But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.”  As you can clearly see, the rulers have the authority to punish you or take away your liberty if you do evil, but NOT for doing good works.  Stealing is evil; thus, the government is authorized to execute wrath on that thief.  Opening the doors of your church, on the other hand, is a good work.  If a church quietly closes its doors and cites the government as the reason, they are implying that a father who wants to take his family to church and sit inside is doing evil.  Any thinking person can see that the rulers who are putting these crazy dictates on churches are being a terror to good works and Romans 13 does not authorize them to do that. 

Why does it matter since California Governor Gavin Newsom is going to allow churches to open on the magical date of June 15?  It matters because these lockdowns and regulations were just the first major battle in the fight to remain a free country.  It was a test to see how many of us would stand up for each other’s liberty.  Unfortunately, the answer was, “not enough.” 

To those of you who are on the side of good, you may be tempted to write off the churches and Christians who sat on the sidelines during this battle and say, “you’re dead to us.”  I urge you not to do that.  We must be forgiving of churches or individuals who were complicit in our loss of rights when they realize what their complacency is leading to.  It is better that they are late to the party than miss it altogether.  Things will get worse and we need more churches to see the light and speak up before it is too late.  We need to pray for these churches to come around, and when they do, we need to welcome them to the fight with open arms.  They need to loudly declare that they will never again remain silent when the government acts as a terror against good works, which is against what Romans 13 says.  Never again will they close the doors of our churches, or limit who or how people can attend.  Our founding documents do not allow it, and the Bible does not allow it.