Thursday, March 07, 2013

Respect for Authority (not absolute)

Our family was reading Chapter 13 of Epistle to the Romans in the Bible.  We came upon this passage often used by many people to teach that we should comply with the government: “... all authority comes from God, ... so any one who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted.”  What they want to say is that it is wrong to protest against those in power.

However, the passage does not end there.  It continues to say: “... the authority do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. ...  They are God’s servants, sent for the very purpose of punishing those who do what is wrong.”

Hence the authority from God is not absolute nor arbitrary.  Those in power are given the authority to punish the wicked and to protect the good.  If the people in power do not do that, should we still comply with them?  Should we not, at least, point out that they are abusing their authority?

For in Micah (6:8), as in many places elsewhere in the Bible, it says: “O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God.” 

At numerous times in the Bible, prophets stood up against kings when the kings committed adultery or idolatry, exploited the poor, oppressed the people, or otherwise behave unjustly.   The prophets were certainly “rebelling against authority”.  But they were commanded by God to do that.  Who can say the prophets were wrong?

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