Romans 13 – Subject

Ah, Romans 13…

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.

So, does that mean that Martin Luther King Jr was disobedient to God when he helped to lead the Civil Rights Movement? Rosa Parks when she refused to sit in the back of the bus? Mandela resisting the apartheid regime in South Africa? Revolutionaries in the 18th century fighting for independence from England? Dietrich Bonhoeffer and other participants in the German Confessing Church during World War 2 resisting the Nazis? Susan B Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton founding the NWSA? Me when I protested and marched against the cash bail system in St Louis or other times I have participated in protest actions? What about my son who asked me to take him to a rally against gun violence where there was plenty of talk and action opportunities to resist the laws that we have regarding firearms?

I wonder if Paul’s last verse in this section (verse 7) speaks to a way to understand this…He writes:

Pay to all what is due them—taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due.

Rules and Laws that are just and fair – those are to be honored and respected. People who follow those just and fair laws – they are to be honored and respected. But what about when rules and laws move away from justice and fairness? What about when they move to oppression? To singling out those most in need of care and love and support? What about when laws get looking less and less like what Jesus lived and taught? The questions can continue and get even deeper…

Bonhoeffer, who actively worked against the Nazi party and Hitler (including participation in a plot to assassinate Hitler) in Germany said the following…

We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself. (Letters and Papers from Prison)

That sounds like resistance and protest and action to me from someone who lived it.

And this from Desmond Tutu:

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.

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