We all come to the coronavirus situation with preconceived notions of what is best; ideas and political leanings established in the past, by our upbringing, experiences, jobs and training, etc. And not all of our notions will agree with one another’s.
Thus we have sought from the beginning to keep one finger on God’s “preconceived notions” – the Bible – specifically, Romans 13:1-7. The command there is to be “subject” to every governing authority. There are a few things to note:
- GOD institutes government (v. 1) . . .
- . . . for a twin purpose: to “be a terror” to “bad” conduct, and to give “his approval” to “good” conduct (v. 3).
But what does the church do when government reverses those purposes, and is a terror to good conduct, and approves the “bad”?
Scripture is light on specifics, though there are examples.* But when Scripture is light on specifics, at that moment we must resist applying our own opinions as our interpretive grid over the text. Instead we must let Scripture help us interpret Scripture. Often that works best if we just keep reading.
And sure enough, Romans 14 provides us with a crucial principle, as we opinionated people seek to understand how to best live out Romans 13, in this strange and surreal season.
Paul wants us to proceed forward in unity, WITH a diversity and freedom of opinion. This of course is not easy, but this is what we are called to. Why? Because we serve Christ, not ourselves, not a political party, not even our country – not at bottom. At bottom, we serve Christ, v. 18 (yet the person who serves Christ WILL serve her country really well). The church is the work of God (v. 20). And we must therefore not endanger that work, in order to preserve a less-important matter of opinion.
So then, let Paul’s commands to us form the substance of your praying today:
- That we would listen graciously to brothers and sisters of differing political and policy views, giving their opinions space and freedom (v. 1-4). No setting conversational traps for each other, as if we are in a real-life political talk show.
- That we would pursue a path forward that honors the Lord (v. 5-9), because we are pursuing righteousness, peace and joy, each for the other (v. 17), which yields a general atmosphere of peace and mutual upbuilding (v. 19).
- That in all things, we would proceed by faith (v. 23), and not by judgmental intuition.
All of this requires keeping in the Word; devoting ourselves to prayer; and keeping in gracious, listening touch with one another.
*For instance, in Acts 9:23-25, Paul and the other Christians do not “subject themselves” to King Aretas (2 Cor. 11:32-33), but instead courageously whisk away Paul in secret, by night. One wonders how many opinions they kicked around before deciding on a hole in the wall, and Paul in a basket.