The Passion Translation of the Bible clearly describes our attitude toward civil authorities in Romans 13:1-6. Every person must submit to and support the authorities over him. For there can be no authority in the universe except by God’s appointment, which means that every authority that exists has been instituted by God. So to resist authority is to resist the divine order of God, which results in severe consequences. For civil authorities don’t intimidate those who are doing good but those who are doing evil. So do what is right, and you’ll never need to fear those in authority. They will commend you for your good citizenship.
Those in authority are God’s servants for the good of society, but if you break the law, you have reason to be alarmed, for they are God’s agents of punishment to bring criminals to justice. Why do you think they carry weapons? You are compelled to obey them, not just to avoid punishment, but because you want to live with a clean conscience.
This is also the reason you pay your taxes, for governmental authorities are God’s officials who oversee these things. So it is your duty to pay all the taxes and fees that they require and to respect those who are worthy of respect, honoring them accordingly.
A man I know has been a trusted friend since we entered first grade together many, many years ago. We learned to read and write together, had recesses together, spelling bees, junior and senior high school classes, graduation, and so on. We served as class officers together and learned to respect our parents, teachers, school officials, and local authorities as we matured into adulthood. There was mutual respect between us, and as I look back on things now, sixty-plus years later, I realize the Lord was developing leadership qualities in both of us that He would use in very different but profound ways to impact our spheres of influence.
My friend is now an esteemed Judge, after serving his community faithfully and effectively as an attorney and solicitor, using his leadership skills to edify and improve an entire county and beyond in remarkable ways. His ability to relate to people and his genuine interest in helping them, coupled with legal expertise and intellect, command respect and honor. What he does, he does well, but I respected him long before he became a Judge. I respected him when he showed kindness and concern for our first-grade class through our senior class, as well as for my family and his community. His character and integrity proved true.
Some leaders are easy to respect. Respect those who are worthy of respect, honoring them accordingly, the Word tells us. My friend is one such person. I’m told that in his virtual courtroom (via Zoom internet technology), when an arrogant, disrespectful defendant comes to court shirtless or wearing flip-flops, my friend orders them out of his courtroom until they are appropriately clothed and decent in appearance. I love that!
What about civil authorities who are not honorable? The Word clearly tells us to “submit to and honor those in authority over us” (vs. 1). As a Christian, the only exception is when we are asked to do something morally wrong in God’s sight. Otherwise, the church and state should work in harmony.
In the High Court of Heaven, our Father God commands the honor and respect due Him. Jesus Christ sits at His right hand, and myriads of angelic beings, along with saints who have gone to Glory before us, worship before the Throne of God. The Lord understands and appreciates respect and honor of authority—both here and in Heaven. For there can be no authority in the universe except by God’s appointment, which means that every authority that exists has been instituted by God (vs. 1).
The time in which we live is troubling and calls us to prayer. Now more than ever, we must pray for those in authority, as Timothy exhorts us. I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth (1 Timothy 2:1-5 NLT).
Let's pray. With all due respect, Lord, we honor those You have placed in authority over us, trusting that You are the One who enables them to be servants for the good of society. Work in their lives to bring about good and not evil, for our hope is in You and Your divine institution of governmental authority. Amen.