This post is part of my ongoing response to the questions I posted as part of this month's book discussion
on Colossians Remixed
by Brian Walsh and Sylvia Keesmaat over at the Emerging Women blog
. (read my other responses - here
Question #4 -
4. But wait a minute you cry! Aren't Christians supposed to subject ourselves to the governing authorities and all that? The authors respond - "Rather than read [Romans 13] as providing carte blanche legitimation for any regime, regardless of how idolatrous and oppressive it might be, we suggest that Paul is actually limiting the authority of the state. The state is a servant of God for our good. it has no legitimacy or authority in and of itself, apart from subjection to the rule of God. and when the state clearly abrogates its responsibility to do good, when it acts against the will of God, then the Christian community has a responsibility to call it back to its rightful duty and even to engage in civil disobedience (see Acts 12:6-23). The state has no authority to do evil". (p185)
I like the balance created here.
I have often heard the “subject yourself to the governing authorities” used as that sort of carte blanche. It is a line used to silence all opposition and dissent. Question the war, the Patriot Act, or No Child Left Behind and you are treated as if you are questioning the existence of God. And labeled a liberal (its hard to tell which is worse)
Then from another camp if I merely attempt to say that the government is in a good position to help make the world a better place and I’m told that I look to the government for my salvation. And that I’m a liberal.
So I like this response. That government thing – it’s there because of God. You know “for by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.” The government is just one more thing that can serve God for his glory. Can it be corrupted by power and swayed by greed? Of course and we have the empires to prove it.
But the responses that say “well even if it is doing God’s work we won’t let it or support it” and those that say “well even if it’s doing evil, we have to support it” just don’t make sense to me. To me the government can be used as a tool to advance God’s kingdom (and I so don’t mean this in a theocratic dictatorship sort of way) or it should be called out when it engages in practices contrary to kingdom values.
So to pledge one’s allegiance to the government (or to a party within that government) instead of God (or as it is subtly twisted – in the name of God) misses the point. Our purpose is to serve God and spread God’s love. If the government is on board with that great. If it is working against that mission, then it needs correction.
For another interesting take on this check out this post
over at Theolog
Labels: Book Reviews, Colossians Remixed, Politics, Theology