Recently I was discussing with a friend the role of Christians in the armed forces.
This conversation began to make me think of a Christian’s relationship to the government, specifically in the responsibility of a believer in raising a weapon against someone for the sake of a government’s ideology or geography.
Later that night I learned that one of my favorite niece’s husband was in training to become a federal agent. This seemed too coincidental for me to ignore, and since my niece confesses Jesus as her Lord, I thought I would discuss this issue with her.
As I mentioned earlier, her husband was in training to become a federal agent for a government. They are very excited. “Frank” and “Belinda-Lu” (not their real names, dontchaknow!) are in the process of finding out where the government will be stationing this family in the near future.
These young folk are seeking to follow the Lord Jesus in their daily walk and because of that, I thought I would chat with “Belinda-Lu” about Christians and Government Authority.
A Discussion and a Distinction
What follows is that conversation. (Comments by Belinda-Lu is indented and in italics.)
May I ask you a question about your husbands vocation with the government?
Shoot! Hahaha no pun intended!
First off, congratulations on your husbands graduation!!! It must feel good to complete that step in your lives.
A friend at work has a son joining the US navy and it got me thinking about the armed forces and belief in the Savior. He mentioned that he may specialize in becoming a sharp shooter/ sniper. I asked him about how he feels about killing someone for no other reason than ideology or geographical circumstance. He said he was alright with it, but I am not so sure – he is very young! (I am also not sure of his commitment to the Lord Jesus.)
My question is similar for your husband. I am assuming as a federal agent for your government, your husband may be called upon to fire a weapon upon another person. How has your husband reconciled this possibility with Jesus’ teaching about loving your enemy, turning the other cheek,…
Frank would only fire his weapon if he sincerely believed his life was in danger; and after using every other kind of non-deadly force first to detain a person… Until a court date can be given and our flawed justice system can deal with the matter. Frank’s mission as an RCMP is to “serve and protect” not to “seek and destroy.” He graduates this September.
I understand that authority here on earth is flawed, but everything needs to be done in balance…. Living a life that honors God is attempting each day to do what you believe God is asking you to do, seeking obedience, expecting sacrifice, and desiring to please the Lord.
“Belinda-Lu” – At no time did I intend to infer that your husband was on a “seek and destroy” mission. I hope you will understand that I am not against y’all, and I know that you wish to please the Lord Jesus. (That is why I am asking you this hard question!)
Therefore, lets look at the passage you offered to see if Paul was advocating believers to be active in “carrying out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer” (v.4)
For many years, I saw Romans 13 as the strongest passage that allowed a believer to be active in government enforcement, but after considering the passage below, (Romans 12:9-21, which provides context to Romans 13), I think Paul was describing (in Roman 13), the God ordained activities of government, but not necessarily endorsing a believers involvement in the government.
Of course I am still learning, and I suppose that is one reason I thought I would ask y’all this question.
Thanks for your patience with me and I do hope all is well. May the Lord Himself bless you and keep you – He is Good.
Romans 12:9 – 13:5Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.
Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.
Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.
Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.
Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Romans 13Let 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.Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval,for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.
One thing that is interesting to me is that Paul uses the second person (you) and the third person (he) in this passage. Since this letter was written to believers, it is safe to say that the “you” Paul is referring to are believers. Who is the “he”? Is it the “you”? Can’t be for then he would use the “you”! (BTW who’s on first?)
Following the grammar of the text helps me to show who Paul is referring to. I am going to insert (hopefully clarifying) added words into the text to help us see where Paul is going with his thoughts. Again – if I am incorrect in my understanding of the apostles teaching, let me know. As I said before, I would like to honor God, and to do so, I need to understand His will for my life also!
Let every person (lost or saved) be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.
Therefore whoever (lost or saved) resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist (lost or saved) will incur judgment.
For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you (Christians) have no fear of the one (the governing authority) who is in authority? Then (you Christians) do what is good, and you (Christians) will receive his (the governing authority) approval,
for he (the governing authority) is God’s servant for your (Christians) good. But if you (Christians) do wrong, be afraid, for he (the governing authority) does not bear the sword in vain. For he (the governing authority) is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.
5 Therefore one (lost or saved) must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.
I find it very instructive that in this passage, Paul actually defines two different groups.
If believers should be part of the governing authorities, why did Paul create the distinction? This distinction is what bothers me. I just don’t get it. Where in the passage does Paul advocate a believer “carrying out God’s wrath”?
You also mentioned…
“that authority here on earth is flawed”
– No argument there, but it isn’t the issue. Why join ourselves with a system/kingdom that is admittedly flawed (as you correctly state!), when we have been invited into a kingdom that has Him as King?
“but everything needs to be done in balance”
– Do you really mean that? Should I balance out my life with part God’s will and part my will? I am not sure what you mean by saying that. Please explain.
“Living a life that honors God is attempting each day to do what you believe God is asking you to do, seeking obedience, expecting sacrifice, and desiring to please the Lord.”
– I think you meant …Living a life that honors God is doing what God says to do, obeying, sacrificing, pleasing God. (There are too many scriptures to refer to, to show this. We are judged on our works, not our intentions.)
“Frank would only fire his weapon if he sincerely believed his life was in danger; and after using every other kind of non-deadly force first to detain a person… “
– I understand the “life in danger” argument, but my concern was whether or not God wants a believer to be in this situation at all.
Remember the words of the Master… “Blessed are the peacemakers” He didn’t say blessed are the peace keepers!
I do hope that y’all will continue to seek Him and His will. Drop a line when you would like to chat.
And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, (ESV)