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.

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