To Resist What God Has Appointed

The State cannot correct the Church through coercion [threats or force] but only through demonstration of a better submission to Christ. Then, the Church, in recognition of Her shepherd’s voice, should follow.

But should “[the church] do wrong, [it should] be afraid, for [the state government ] does not bear the sword in vain.” (Romans 13:4).

Paul, the author of Romans, lived and died fully aware of an empire’s capacity for both order and tyranny. He saw their power and influence; he saw them through their prison bars on multiple occasions. He would eventually see their reflections in an executioner’s flashing sword.

He did not endorse the abuse of power or authority when he said: “Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment (Rom. 13:2). Thus, sometimes, the Christian engages in obedient resistance to the authority God has appointed.

Two applications come to mind.

  1. When the state demonstrates a better submission to Christ through “religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father,” the Sheep hear their Shepherd’s voice and obey Him by visiting “orphans and widows in their affliction.” Hopefully, their familiarity with God’s written word inspires the sheep also to “keep [themselves] unstained from the world,” as they creatively discover better ways to serve and disciple the orphans and widows among their neighbors. (James 1:27)
  2. When sexual abuse happens among the members of the Church, the incident is reported to the governing authorities and the survivor is shown the small, informed community’s regret. They are never abandoned to grief but always accompanied in mourning, so that the survivor is never alone in his or her suffering loss. Later, the Church can respond to the criminal’s repentance with forgiveness, examination, correction, instruction in righteousness and the possibility of eventual reconciliation. Perhaps if the survivor consents, the offender may even rejoin the assembly.

May the Church be eager to hear its Shepherd’s voice and willing to resist what God has appointed where obedience demands it.

I care about people, even though people say not to: codependency

The simplest distinction my mind can reason is this: I should care for people rather than caring for how people evaluate me. But, my ears cannot hear this distinction. All I hear is “you shouldn’t care about people.” So, I take a second look, and my second look carries emotional polemics: “he’s an individualist and doesn’t care about the community,” “he’s self-sufficient and doesn’t think he needs anyone,” or “he’s indifferent to those he tramples over.” These polemics identify the “healthy” person as arrogant and selfish.

I haven’t stopped “caring for people” yet. I imagine that it must look like cussing someone out. It must look like abandoning my friends. It must look like identifying a goal and destroying anyone who restrains or resists my efforts. But, my mind can reason a simple distinction which my ears cannot hear: “stop caring about their evaluation of you.”

Unfortunately, we are not the merely cognitive creatures, as we relate ourselves to be. Relationships are interactive: giving and receiving, asking and answering, talking and listening, offending and suffering offense. I may have the cognitive insight necessary to change a mere mind. But I do not have the relationship necessary to experience change.

I will never be the assertive man who ignores his wife. I will never be the rugged cowboy who proclaims the self-sufficiency of a self-made man. And for now, I remain, the generous person who blindly denies his selfishness.

Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner, unable to please the Father without faith. The pendulum of morality swings wide in rejection of evil, so that the perpetrators are shamed and I join them in a new way. But you never rejected sin in pursuit of pleasure. No. You rejected sin out of a long, suffering obedience. But I still want to be a good person more than I want to be united to You.

I don’t mind being this vulnerable.  Pseudo-virtues can be perverted. Voluntary vulnerability retains control and does not encroach on what is denied. So applaud me. I’m accustom to it. Or, if you want to help, pray in alignment with Hebrews 4:13: “And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”