In Part 12, Paul reveals to us that the Lord does not want us to conform to the world's ways, but to instead walk in His. Indeed, to do so is difficult, especially in a world where lying, cheating and stealing are considered "survival tactics" and those who would follow God's ways are all but ostracized. As we continue on in chapter 13 of Romans, the Lord continues to reveals to us in the writings of the Apostle Paul how we are to walk.
To start, Paul focuses on our relationship with those that govern us:
"Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves". (Romans 13:1-2, NASB, emphasis mine)
This tends to go "against the grain" for a lot of folks nowadays, especially in societies where entitlements and doing "ones' own thing" are considered rights. But the Lord is clear in this matter: we are to be subject to those that are in authority, because God has placed them there.
At this point, I know some would quote the American Revolution and ask "Does this mean the founding fathers violated Romans chapter 13?" While I am not going to go into a full dissertation of the scriptural validity of the Revolution, the short answer is "no". When the colonists peacefully approached the king of England with pleas for reconciliation, England's reply was to use force and to violate England's own common laws and bill of rights. At that point, it was not about vengeance nor rebellion, but about defending one's family and home from being destroyed. As a point of fact: at Lexington, the order was not to fire unless fired upon. The point of Romans 13: 1-2 is to establish that we are to be subject to human authority, but not when it violates scripture. Scripture is replete with instances where believers disobeyed human law to obey God's commands, and ultimately, God's rule overrides human rule.
But that said, we must not allow that as an excuse to disobey when we dislike a law or a particular government leader. Unless the law or order violates God's instructions, we need to respect the authority placed over us, no matter what our opinion is of them. Scripture tells us:
"For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor." (Romans 13: 3-7, NASB, emphasis mine)
We may not like taxes, ordinances and having to respect leaders, but unless we want to foster a heart of rebellion in others and give a witness to the world that Christians disregard authority, we must show the proper respect and pay what is due to them. Our actions do not go unnoticed by others, and when we show contempt for those over us, we are ultimately showing contempt for the God who placed them there and telling the world that we are not different from them at all.
Keep in mind: rebellion was the first sin; when we practice it, we are repeating that first sin and essentially saying that we do not want God's ways.
Paul writes to us as well:
"Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. For this, “YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, YOU SHALL NOT MURDER, YOU SHALL NOT STEAL, YOU SHALL NOT COVET,” and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law." (Romans 13:8-10, NASB, emphasis mine)
Building upon the foundation laid in chapter 12, Paul exhorts us to love our neighbor, as Jesus told the young lawyer to do so in the gospels. And in this, he confirms everything that the Lord has been trying to explain to mankind through the Law as well as His teachings when He walked the Earth: that to truly obey God is to care for your "neighbor", who may even be someone you meet as you travel. If we love God, we care for what He cares for, and what God cared for was the human race. The laws in the Torah were God examining every possible situation the Israelites could find themselves in, and how someone who loved God and their neighbor should act in them. The Holy Spirit dwelling within believers, as well as us being in scripture and being in constant prayer, should lead us to love our neighbor and do what the the Lord would have us do in caring for those around us. This is again why it is so important that we submit to authority as well: so that we do not incite those we care for as well as those who live and work near us to rebellion and sin.
Paul finishes this chapter with:
"Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts." (Romans 13:11-14, NASB, emphasis mine)
Already in Paul's day, time was considered to be running out. Paul and those who believed lived as if the lord could come any time. And we are exhorted to live the same way; not as the world lives, but as the Lord asks us to live. Not in the deeds of the old flesh, but in the strength of the Spirit and in faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, we are told to "make no provision for the flesh in regards to lust"; this means not giving fantasies and desires the room to breathe let alone grow.
On a final note: especially in these last days, how we live and treat others, how we conduct ourselves and behave towards those that are over us has a tremendous impact on how the message we are trying to spread is viewed. We may not like much of what happens, and yes, we may have burdens put upon us by those in authority that seem unfair, but scripture is clear on how we should deal with it. Yes, we see examples of what was done in the past and we cite them, but if we are continually looking to excuse our desire to throw authority off from us with examples from the past, then we need to ask why we keep searching for such examples...
...are we looking to be free from tyrants, or from responsibility?
In part 14, God shows us that we are not to judge our brethren for the holy days they observe, or the customs for that matter.
I bid you all peace.