What Does “Submission to Governing Authorities” Look Like?

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.

– Romans 13:1

In this verse Paul commands that every person should be subject to the governing authorities. This is simply a fact beyond question. There is no way to escape Paul’s command that does not deny his authority, distort his words, or destroy the doctrines of inspiration and inerrancy. There are, however, a few question that we are left with.

First: What does submission to governing authorities look like in the day to day grind of being an American citizen and a Christian?

I think that normally, the Christian’s submission to governing authorities should look like compliance. In other words, do your duties: pay your taxes, pray for your leaders, love your neighbors, etc…

Second: What does submission look like when we disagree with our governing authorities?

This is a trickier question. Christians who disagree with their governing authorities are still called to be submissive to them. However, submissive doesn’t entail blind obedience or silent conformity. In a representative democracy, there are multiple ways to be submissive to AND to express disagreement with governing authorities: peaceful protests, sharing your opinions with other citizen, communicating with elected officials, etc…

Having said that, I must also say this: the Christian’s submission to governing authorities should be secondary; their primary obedience should be to God. If there is a government that forces its citizens to disobey God, then (according to Acts) those citizens are free to disobey their governing authorities in proper and God honoring ways. However, this is an extreme and exceptional situation. Christians need to be wise about how and why they choose the path of civil disobedience. Some things are worth standing for, fighting for, and dying for, many things are not.


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