Gospel: Matthew 22:1-11
Sermon: The invitation is for NOW
Internet home of Our Saviour Lutheran Church, Evanston
and St. Paul's Lutheran Church, Kemmerer L.C.M.S.
In recent months, Romans 13 has received a great deal of attention. While this chapter is too great to cover completely, let’s walk through a few of its most important teachings.
Paul begins, “Let every soul be subject unto the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whosoever resists the authority, resists the ordinance of God. and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.” (Romans 13:1-2).
We should notice, first, that Paul puts submission to authority as the first priority. It is the foundation stone of a godly life. God himself has created human beings to live in hierarchies. To be godly people requires recognition that God puts us in relationships of authority and humility. To live in insubordination brings harm (judgment) to ourselves.
Second, know that authorities are not only presidents and governors. God-ordained relationships also include parents and children, husbands and wives, teachers and students, police and citizens. Authority is not oppression, and subordination is not being oppressed. On the contrary, humbling ourselves before authority that has been ordained by God is empowering. And authorities that recognize the source of their power are necessarily humble.
Third, St. Paul reminds us that God gives authority for our good. “For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil” (Romans 13:3-4).
Government is not merely a “necessary evil.” It is a divine and blessed gift. That’s why Christians thank God for presidents, governors, husbands, parents, teachers and police. We don’t only thank God when they do what we want. We thank him for their very existence.
Fourth, we also recognize that they have a God-given responsibility. When they execute their office according to God’s command, it not only benefits us, it benefits them. Christians pray, “May all that receive the sword as Thy ministers bear it according to Thy commandment.” We do this not only for our own sake, but also for their benefit. We ask God’s blessing upon them as persons.
Fifth, authorities are persons. We must never lose sight of that. The great evil of vitriolic “identity politics” is that people seek to dehumanize political opponents. Those who get caught up in this evil, never succeed in dehumanizing their targets. They do, however, dehumanize themselves. Christians must fight against this evil by praying constantly for all those in authority.
Sixth, the current political ugliness has another consequence as well. Those under our own authority learn from our attitudes toward others. That is why we see—across the board—a widespread disrespect for authority. Students are rude and disobedient toward teachers. Children disrespect parents. This will not be reversed unless we learn to treat state and national authorities with honor and dignity.
“Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake” (Rom. 13:5). The unbelieving world grudgingly submits to authority only as much as necessary to escape punishment. Christians have a completely different attitude. We consider authorities as gifts from God. We help and support them with kindly advice, patience, deference, and fervent prayer.
We know that they are crowned by Jesus Christ, the One who Himself was crowned with thorns and rules over all the kingdoms of this world.
Almighty and Most Merciful God, our heavenly Father, we, Thine erring children, humbly confess unto Thee that we have justly deserved the chastening which for our sins Thou hast sent upon us; but we entreat Thee, of Thy boundless goodness to grant us true repentance, graciously to forgive our sins, to remove from us, or to lighten, our merited punishment, and so to strengthen us by Thy grace that as obedient children we may be subject to Thy will and bear our afflictions in patience; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord. Amen.