August 23

Today's Bible Reading
            I Samuel 15
            Romans 13
            Jeremiah 52
            Psalms 31
“Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.” (Romans 13:1)
            I think about this verse every time I am pulled over for speeding, knowing that I am not only disobeying law where I live and the local police officer, but I am disobeying the Word of God. We all laugh about that kind of thing, but this verse is as much a part of God's Word to us as any verse in the Bible. 
            The Lord Jesus made it very clear that we have a responsibility to human government.  Remember when He was asked by His enemies, ''ls it lawful to pay tribute to Caesar or not?'' He asked them to show Him a coin - He wanted to teach them from something they themselves had, and also I don't think He had a coin in His pocket that day. He did not have much while He was down here in this world. He asked them “whose superscription and whose image was on that coin?” They said, “Caesar's.” Then He made the significant statement, ''Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God the things which are God's.” (Luke 20:25)
            The duty of the believer as a citizen of Heaven is spiritual. The duty of the believer as a citizen under our government is secular. These two are separate functions, and to combine them is to fail to keep church and state separate and distinct in your own life. In these last days, which I believe are the days in which we live, lawlessness abounds.  The believer must oppose it. We must not be a part of it, even when it is in your own government. Remember John the Baptist was beheaded by Herod, Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilate, James the brother of John was slain with the sword of Herod, and Paul was put to death by Nero. Every Apostle except one was martyred by corrupt government, and the other one, John, was placed in exile on the Isle of Patmos.  So there is a time for civil disobedience.
            Then consider Paul. I remember when I was in the Mamertine Prison where Paul was kept before his execution, I got claustrophobia down there. I wanted to get out of there quick, but Paul could not get out. They kept him down in that damp, dark prison. Remember, he wrote to Timothy, “Bring my cloak with you”- he was getting cold.
            So there is indeed a time when civil disobedience is necessary. One of the first occasions that comes to our mind is the Third Reich in Germany in the era of Adolph Hitler. This was a time when men like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran pastor, preached against the philosophy of the Third Reich and the rule of Adolph Hitler. Not only did Bonhoeffer stand against Hitler and go to prison for his stand, but he taught other pastors how to practice civil disobedience.
            So our rule and standard must be that we are to obey the government authorities over us because they are God­ appointed leaders until they command us to do something that is contrary to the Word of God and the truth that God has given us. Then we must be willing to suffer the consequences of our civil disobedience, knowing that God will take care of us.  This is in the spirit and tradition of men like Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, Joseph, and many others who dared to stand tall and true when they were commanded to do something that was blatantly opposed to the Word that God had given them.
            So this is the bottom line.  We are to obey our government, and “render to Caesar that which is Caesar's” until we are commanded to do something that is contrary to the Word of God. Then we must stand with a willingness to suffer the consequences. Remember, those in power need the power of prayer.
            Pray today for a special need in the once Communist country of Belarus. The Chernobyl catastrophe in 1986 occurred in the Ukraine, but affected Belarus most severely. Environmental, economic, and psychological impact of the nuclear fallout has since devastated the country. Twenty-five percent of the land area is considered uninhabitable. Radiation-related health problems still occur at 80 times the global average. Pray that in this climate of despair, God may use believers as ministers of restoration and hope.