By Michael E. Brooks
“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. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. 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. 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” (Romans 13:1-4 NKJV).
May 29, 2008 was an historic day in the Himalayan nation of Nepal. After more than 200 years as a monarchy, ruled by the Shah dynasty, Nepal’s newly elected government declared the country to be a Republic, abolishing the throne and deposing the reigning King. The precise nature of the new government has not yet been completely determined, as a new constitution is scheduled to be written. It will be different however from what has existed before.
Changes in government will take place in many nations over the next months. Elections will be held in the United States as well as in a number of other countries. People are understandably concerned whenever change comes. What will a new president, congress, prime minister, parliament, etc. bring about? Will peace continue? Will the economy be strengthened or will hard times prevail? What about personal liberties, human rights, environmental protection, international relations and a host of other legitimate concerns? Will our way of life continue as it is or will drastic change occur?
The fact is that all human conditions and institutions are temporary. “Nothing is constant except change” is a historic fact. We have no certainty regarding security or stability. But that does not mean that we must be fearful, pessimistic, or paranoid about our future. God is sovereign. He is in control. Whatever comes will be in accordance with his eternal will and purpose. That does not mean that we will always have the prosperity or freedom that we desire. He does not guarantee those things. But we will have circumstances in which we can serve him, and in which he can bless us. “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
It is interesting that Paul wrote the book of Romans on his third missionary journey, probably only months prior to being arrested in Jerusalem by Roman authorities. He would spend more than 4 years in Roman prisons before being set free to preach again (as many New Testament scholars believe), but then would evidently be arrested once again and finally executed under orders from Nero (according to early Christian sources). The man who stated that those who do good have nothing to fear from government was put to death by that same government for preaching the gospel of Christ. Was Paul mistaken? Is this a conflict or an untruth? It depends on one’s definition of good or of fear. Jesus taught, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). Paul himself considered that “to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). He saw no threat in the prospect of going to be with Christ in Heaven.
If our trust is in God, and our primary goals and concerns are spiritual, then our attitude toward government can be that of confidence. We will do what is right, what honors God and serves our fellow man. We will trust God to provide for us and to protect us eternally. We will not fear. This does not mean that we cannot or should not work and pray for good government that is sensitive to and supportive of human needs, and that promotes Biblical values. Certainly those things are greatly to be desired. But in places or times where those are not available we still may trust in God. For that we are grateful.