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.  

Give Us the Same Courtesy That We Gave You

The first paragraph of this article is here for a very specific reason. To promote the article on social media I had to make sure that there was no political speech in the first couple of lines so that it wouldn’t be censored. The original started here:

Democrats now control the White House and both chambers of Congress.  They are calling for unity, but what they mean by that is, “Now everybody needs to agree with us.”  That is not going to happen.  I am not saying that in an obstinate way.  I’m just being realistic and honest.  People disagree and that is alright.  Republicans were in charge for the last four years and many people disagreed with them, and I expected that as well because that is how life works. 

This leads me to my one request to Democrats.  Now that you’re in charge please give us the same courtesy that we gave to you when we were.  That courtesy is this:  When people disagree with you, don’t force them to do what you want. 

This may surprise some of you after being told by the media for four years that President Trump was a fascist dictator, but I cannot think of anything that he forced us to do during his term.  If you disagreed with President Trump and the Republicans, they did not make you do anything against your will.  Republicans let people agree to disagree.  

If, for example, you disagreed with the tax cuts that were passed, Republicans did not force you to go along with it.  They implemented no penalties for people who wanted to keep paying the higher tax rates voluntarily.  Yes, you can do that.  Surprisingly, wealthy Democrats who complain that rich people don’t pay their fair share do not opt to pay more themselves when given that choice.  Alright, maybe not so surprisingly.

Ultimately, this is the main thing that Republicans want:  to be left alone.  We want to control our own lives and let others control theirs.  Another example; we may understand that homosexuality is immoral, but we do not block people from the practice.  In fact, the Trump administration started a global effort to end the criminalization of homosexuality.  (In contrast, Democrats kowtow to countries like Iran who put homosexuals to death.)  Republicans also disagree with divisive groups like Antifa and Black Lives Matter, yet do not want them prevented from speaking or kicked off of social media.  Another Republican belief is that God is central to the American way of life and necessary for our success, but we do not want to require church attendance.  In other words, Republicans would like everybody to act in particular ways but think that people should be free to choose for themselves.

This approach is not a new one.  It is actually one of the principles that our country was established on.  Our Founding Fathers were wise men who understood that people would not always agree as to what should be done.  They also knew that throughout history, when the powerful forced those who disagreed with them to conform to their will it sowed contempt, division and conflict.  Their solution was liberty.  If one group wants to do “A” and another group wants to do “B,” the answer is not to have the group in power force the other group to do what they command.  Instead, the first group can do “A” and the second group can do “B.”  They can try to use persuasion to win the other side over but they should not use coercion.

If Joe Biden really wants unity this is what he should do.  Refrain from taking away our liberty.  Allow people to have free will and do what they think is best for themselves.  He can disagree with our choices but he should not overrule them.  Here are ten great suggestions that the Democrats can do to respect the liberty of Americans:

  1. If you decide to raise taxes, make it optional to pay the old rate like the Republicans did for you. 
  2. If you want people to wear masks, make it optional like the Republicans did.
  3. Let scared restaurant owners who want to shut down do so, and let the ones who want to remain open choose to do that.  If patrons want to show up they can but if they are afraid they should also be free to stay home.
  4. Let churches decide whether to remain open or close down.  If congregants do not want to attend they should not be forced to, but those who do should be allowed in.
  5. President Trump stopped enforcement of the Johnson Amendment, which threatens to take away tax-exempt status from churches if the pastor endorses a political candidate.  Continue with that policy and allow pastors to decide for themselves what to say from the pulpit without threat of retaliation from the government.
  6. If somebody wants health insurance that covers pregnancy and drug rehabilitation they should be allowed to purchase it.  If another person wants less expensive insurance that does not cover those things they should be allowed to choose that.  If someone else prefers to pay out of pocket for medical care instead of buying insurance they should be able to do that.
  7. Do not force law abiding citizens to buy guns.  Likewise, do not prohibit them from buying guns.
  8. If someone wants to do a job for $8 per hour, do not prohibit them from doing so and force them out of a job.  Let people decide for themselves what wage to accept.
  9. Do not force people who are against murdering babies to pay for the murder of babies.  Do not use taxpayer money for Planned Parenthood.
  10. Refrain from banning or restricting us from using certain products like incandescent light bulbs, straws, grocery bags, soda, and shower heads with good water pressure.

These are all things that Democrats have tried to dictate in the past.  If they truly want unity this list would be a solid first step.  Instead of using tyrannical power to control those of us who disagree with them, try going back to our founding vision of liberty.  It’s the least they can do after Republicans did it for them the last four years.