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  • Get your act together!

    A little reminder about context.

    Paul is writing this to the Christians in Rome, the seat of the Roman Empire and Caesar. There are two major factions of Jews at the time, the Zealots and the Pharisee/Sadducees. Rome has kept a close eye on both of them, and has been careful to quell rebellions where they can before they get started.

    Now there is a new faction who claim a “King of the Jews” has come, and the Romans think they might be facing a new rebellion. Because it is illegal to recognize any authority but Caesar, the Jews are trying to distance themselves from the “Christians” while maintaining their tenuous relations with the authorities. The Zealots, who hate Rome, see the Christians as allies, but they are intent on driving Rome out of Judea by force. Paul sees the folly of this, and is trying to keep the young “church” from becoming an overt target of Rome. As long as they remain low key and pay their taxes, Paul knows the Romans will leave the Christians alone.

    Obey the law; be good citizens and do not rebel against authority, for there is no authority except what is granted by God.

    If you do not respect the law, you do not respect God, and you will face His judgment and anger.

    Good leaders are not evil men; they do not use their authority to do wrong, but to do right by the governed. Act in accordance with the law, and you will earn the respect of all and the blessing of God.

    If you do not obey the law, you will be punished, and you will give them an excuse to punish your brothers and sisters as well. Obey the law, not only for fear of the consequences, but for your conscience sake.

    Pay your taxes as required. A good citizen supports the administration for the public good. The gold you use bears the image of Caesar, so give taxes to Caesar, be subject to authority, and be known as a good citizen. By doing this, you are blameless in the eyes of Rome and of God.

    Stay out of debt; owe nothing to anyone but to love one another. When you love in all you do, you have fulfilled the law. Do not commit adultery, do not kill, do not steal, do not lie, do not covet. Love your neighbor as you love yourself.

    Love does not treat others with malice or shame. By loving in all you do, you have fulfilled the law.

    You have been awakened from a great sleep, so rise and meet the new day. Our salvation is come, and we must stand to embrace it. The night of sin is over, the day of redemption is here. Do not live as if you were still in the night, carousing in drunken revels, visiting bordellos and quarreling over petty things.

    Instead, put on the armor of light and be clothed in the image of Christ. Deny lust and envy, and do not sin. Walk with honor and integrity, as befits a child of God.

    You are no longer what you were.

    Okay, we can certainly debate over the first half of this chapter with myriad examples from history. Hitler, Stalin, Amin, Bautista, even Obama. Unfortunately, the list of questionable leaders goes on and on, and it does not appear to be ending soon.

    But wait a second. If all things serve God according to his purpose, how do we rightfully question even the most horrendous of leaders?

    It is an interesting quandary, isn't it? Sort of makes you wonder how these horrible people ever got in a position of authority in the first place, doesn't it.

    “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”―Edmund Burke

    While the source of that quote is sometimes disputed, the quote itself has never been. You see, even in Rome, citizens have the power to speak up and vote. Back then, senators represented the people and often, according to history, spoke out for the people. Today, we have representatives who are supposed to be our voice, not the voice of the wealthy and powerful. They are supposed to protect us from the evil and corruption of those who would pervert our system of government.

    Israel fell to Rome because they had abandoned God and become one more petty state where corruption and self serving leaders had taken control. The good men, and I believe most people are good, failed to keep an eye on those who were in power, and when the powerful realize they are not being watched, they will attempt to get away with anything that gives them an advantage over the not so powerful. They justify it by claiming they are the rich, therefore the more fit to survive, and begin to believe they are acting in the “best interests” of the lesser evolved in order to protect them. In fact, they are only protecting themselves and their wealth, because they do not want to share.

    Paul realized this. He knew if the Romans felt threatened in their authority they would come down hard on all the believers, Jew and Christian, and there would be a purge so powerful it might destroy the entire church including the Jews. So his pleas for good citizenship were not only to encourage Christians to continue in a witness to Christ, but also to not give the Romans any excuse to be more active in persecuting them than they already were.

    The remainder of the chapter is a reinforcement of what he has written earlier, with emphasis on love in action. He turns slightly poetic at the end, comparing their previous lives to the darkness of night and their new lives to a new dawn, but the meaning is the same. If you have surrendered to the Holy Spirit, you must allow Him to guide your life daily.

    Actually, not bad advice, wouldn't you say?

    I hope you have a blessed day.

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