Relating to Government, pt3
Leadership in Context with Keith Tucci
Ethnocentric Worldview: Interpreting things around us only by our environment.
Ethnos, in the Bible, means a tribe, nation, a people group.
The mindset with which we see the world is affected by our environment and our upbringing. As Americans, we tend to interpret the Scriptures based on our American experience rather than the biblical history.
Where this especially comes true is in regards to eschatology. There are people who are taking the things happening in America today and superimposing them on the history of the Bible, coming up with end-time interpretations. I think this is very dangerous, and in most cases it’s wrong. Ethnocentric doctrine comes in, as well, when people look at suffering and hard times.
We cannot let our history and personal experience demand and dictate Scripture.
This became clear to me when I started going into the Soviet Union in the mid-1980s, right as the Iron Curtain started to crumble. Those believers’ perspectives on what was being taught in America, especially on end-time theology, was foreign to them. They had already suffered and been massacred. Their fathers and grandfathers were murdered for their faith. When they heard American prophecy teachers teaching certain views on suffering, they just didn’t understand because they had already been there and experienced that. It created some very lively debates and was eye-opening to me. It helped me to understand to not base my perceptions/perspectives/beliefs on my experience, but to base them on the Bible.
I had a great man of God there ask me: Is your church more American or more Christian? He wasn’t asking it as an accusation. He was sincere in his questioning.
Based on our ethnocentric thinking, I think we have grossly misinterpreted Scripture, especially Romans 13. There is this pseudo-American doctrine of submission to civil authority that is almost carte-blanche. Put yourself in the place of people whose countries have had experiences or laws that outlawed Christianity. Would the American interpretation of Romans 13 work in those settings?
Romans 13 is not a doctrine on civil authority. The subject of it is not civil authority. It eludes to civil authority as an illustration only. What the Apostle Paul was addressing was that God is a God of authority, and authority is needed for the Church to be vibrant and effective. He gives illustrations to help us to really understand this.
Let’s look at Romans 13:1-5.
“Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities.” The Apostle Paul never mentions the word “civil,” yet there is a safe assumption that civil would be a part of it.
“There is no authority except from God and those which exist are established by God.” He is not talking about the personality of government, but the purpose of government. Every person that is in authority has not been ordained by God to be there. If that were the case, we would have no authority to recall those people or vote them out, because they would be God’s established people. What the Apostle Paul is talking about here is the principle of authority and that God establishes authority.
“Whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God…” Some people are automatically against authority, saying “No one can tell me what to do; I will be subject to no one.” The Apostle Paul is saying that if that is what you have as your attitude and that is what is being brought into the Church, that is not going to work.
“…who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.” Those who have a chip on their shoulder and are anti-authority, will bring condemnation upon themselves.
“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…” The authority that God has set up is good authority, godly authority.
“…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.” Many will see the sword part and assume it is about the civil government, but you have to read the whole verse. “…wrath on the one who practices evil.” Romans 13 is between Romans 12 and Romans 14. Romans 12 is about body life. Romans 14 starts out with, “Now accept the one who is weak in faith not for the purpose of passing judgement on his opinions.” Romans 13 is not separate. The Apostle Paul didn’t get a different idea all of the sudden. Romans 13 has 14 verses, not just 5 verses. Taking a look at the rest of the chapter will help make it clear what the Apostle Paul is referring to.
Romans 13:7 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. Is this talking about civil government? Or is it talking about every dispensation of government—civil, home, Church, family? This is talking about the principle of government and that we should understand that God wants us to be people who have government in our lives. We cannot say that we have no government in our lives.
Romans 13:8 Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. What law is this talking about? Is there anyone who would suggest that verse 8 is talking about civil law? No. It is talking about God’s law.
The subject of Romans 13 is God’s law, not man’s law.
Romans 13:9-10 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. Whose law is that? God’s law.
While God has ordained government, He has not ordained every order or every person in government. Yet, we cannot just be rebellious against authority for the sake of being rebellious. Romans 13 is not teaching that we must submit to the government when they are asking us to do evil. What Romans 13 is teaching us is that if we do not come under God’s law, if we are anti-government in our mentality, then it’s going to affect us.
Join us next week as Keith Tucci continues to put leadership truth in the context of the local church. And as always, please like, share, rate/review, and invite others to listen. See you next week!