My Thoughts . . .
“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. . . But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer” (Romans 13:1, 4 Emphasis mine, RH).
Although one is to obey the laws of the country in which he has citizenship, Paul is not saying government is always right. Mankind is not consistent individually or in government. Paul was under Roman government which imprisoned him and finally took his life. Why? He was a Christian. As a believer, he worshiped only one Deity whereas Rome had multiple gods. Rome also indulged in practices which were not moral for a Christian to engage in. Public killing of Christians was entertainment to that pagan society.
Not all believers are fortunate enough to live in a country that supports biblical values. Some may experience situations making it almost impossible to render valid moral decisions. Do you pay taxes which government spends to destroy three hundred thousand innocent lives each year? Do you pay taxes to pay upkeep on a building that is used to slaughter Christian men, women, and children? Do you support a government that supports atheism or polygamy? That was the world in which Paul wrote Romans 13.
A Christian holds dual citizenship. One becomes a citizen of a country by birth. Later, that individual may become a citizen of heaven through faith. Yet Jesus stated, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). When citizenship in one kingdom violates the laws in the other, a serious decision must be made. Which kingdom is number one? Christians fled from Jerusalem due to persecution (Acts 8:1). Do you flee or must you stand your ground as a disciple of Jesus? If you flee, are you a coward with no godly backbone? Some fled. The apostles remained. Were the apostles the only faithful ones due to staying in Jerusalem? We do not see Scripture condemning those who fled.
If a country has a death penalty, and a Christian does not agree with such, is his position sinful? If he agrees to the criminal being executed, is he sinning by taking that position? Jesus asked the apostles if they possessed a sword. He told them if they did not have one, go buy one (Luke 22:36). They possessed “two” (Luke 23:50-52). Jesus did not accuse Peter or the other apostle of sin because they wore a sword. Governments have sentenced both the innocent as well as the guilty to death. Governments have had laws that were sinful, and Christians followed those laws. For example, slavery in the Old and New Testaments was lawful. In the nineteen-century slavery was lawfully practiced in the United States. Some Christians helped slaves to escape their owners which was unlawful yet humanitarian. Having multiple wives was legal in David and Solomon’s day, but not so today although one religious group in Utah practices such. Most automobile drivers break the speed limit laws believing it is allowed. Some find out it is not. I have never seen a Christian ask for prayers because he went two to five miles per hour over the posted speed limit. Would that be called “sinful allowances”?
Is it wrong for government to sentence a prisoner to death? Paul basically states that “If you break the law, expect to be punished by the law.” Some accuse government of “murder” when a prisoner is executed. The government is guilty of killing that person, but it is not murder. If a policeman shoots a criminal to protect his life, he has not murdered the criminal only killed him. Murder is against the law. All killings are not murder. If a citizen does not want to be punished by hanging, the electric chair, or a firing squad, then said person should not break a law that punishes the guilty with the death penalty.
“But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.”