Back in the 70’s David Crosby, sang in “Almost Cut My Hair”:
It increases my paranoia
Like lookin’ at my mirror and seein’ a police car
In college, I’d often have marijuana in my pocket. If I saw a policeman, I’d be scared. What if he stops me? Do I look like I’m stoned? Like David Crosby, when I’d look in my mirror and see a police car, I’d be paranoid. And like many 70’s college students I called police, “Pigs.” I had little regard for the police then.
Sadly, recent instances of police brutality have made many lose sight of how the Bible tells us we should regard those who enforce the law. Many would be surprised to know that the Bible says we should view them as God’s servants. What? That politician who lies? That man who passed the tax that broke my business? That policeman who gave me the ticket when I was barely speeding?
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. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. Romans 13:1-2
Man didn’t come up with the idea of government and law. God did. God appointed the police who patrol your city. They may not even believe in God. They may not be “good” men and women. They may even abuse their power, but bottom line, God put them there. And if we resist them, we’ll incur God’s judgment. Does this mean we must obey them if they command us to sin? No. But in general, we are to submit to the authorities.
God works through the authorities to do good to us.
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. (Romans 13:1-5)
One in authority is “God’s servant for your good”, (vs 4) and they are “ministers of God”. God works through them for our good. They “bear the sword” to protect us and to punish wrongdoers. When a criminal goes to jail, that is God’s wrath being carried out in this world.
When John, one of our members who is a police officer, first came to our church, he took a course in basic Christianity. In one class he said, “I don’t know if I can be a Christian because at times I have to use force and sometimes even violence to stop criminals, and I’m supposed to hate evil.” We turned to Romans 13 and I said, “John, you are God’s servant to people for their good. He uses police and governments to protect us from evil. When you have to use force or even violence to protect us from criminals, you’re acting in God’s place to carry out his wrath against wrongdoers. I am so grateful for our police. So grateful I can go to bed at night, knowing you guys are out there protecting us.”
Think of all the good God uses our authorities to do for us. They make laws that protect our property and lives. Our military personnel risks their lives so we can enjoy peace and freedom. Things like speed limits, seat belts, sanitary restaurant regulations, requirements for hospitals, food labeling regulations – sometimes they seem like a pain, but they are ultimately for our good. If there were no governments and laws, we’d be in chaos. We’d all have to be doomsday preppers, hunkered down in our bunkers with bazookas, because unrestrained, people steal, kill and destroy. Ultimately God works through the authorities for our good and protection.
If we resist the government there are consequences
Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.
This is serious. Because God instituted governmental authority, whoever resists it resists God and brings judgment on himself. So if you decide to disobey an earthly law, you’d better be darn sure you’re doing it to obey God, otherwise you are going to incur judgment.
If we subject ourselves as God’s word commands us to then we will have no “terror” (vs 3). If we keep the law, there’s nothing to fear. If you are doing something illegal, be paranoid. If you’re cheating on your taxes, be afraid. Because rulers “hold terror” for those who do wrong. And God backs them up.
Of course we do NOT have to obey the authorities if they command us to disobey God. In Acts 5, when the high priest forbid Peter and the apostles to preach the gospel, they answered, “We must obey God rather than men. (Acts 5.29). We don’t have to obey the authorities if they tell us to sin. But in general we should submit ourselves to them.
So pray for your authorities and police. And if you know a policeman, thank him for the good he does for you. You’ll be honoring God if you do.