Resistance, Riots, and Romans
Humanists, those who believe in the inherent goodness of human beings, ought to be doing some soul searching this week. Our nation is collectively stunned by videos of people dressed in black kicking in windows, looting stores, and carrying out mob violence. Do they ever wonder why inherently good people, living at peace yesterday, would turn on each other in violence today?
Humanists may ponder these things. But Christians have the answer:
“Their mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.
Their feet are swift to shed blood;
ruin and wretchedness are in their paths,
and the path of peace they have not known.
There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
(Romans 3:14-18, CSB)
We shouldn’t be surprised when political groups coordinate protests that devolve into looting and violence. We shouldn’t be shocked to hear community organizers, news media, and politicians trying to defend such behavior. Violence is perfectly normal to the sinful orientation of human beings. So is speech that rationalizes it. See Genesis 4:9.
None of this should be shocking to us because it all reveals that the Bible is true: people are desperately wicked. (Before we start feeling too indignant about all this violence, Jesus would want the church to stop hating people in our hearts, abusing marriage, telling white lies, and looking at pornography...and that's just Matthew 5!)
Now, here's what is actually shocking: civil unrest doesn't happen all the time!
How is it possible that sinful people aren’t always unleashing their innermost evil ambitions? Because God has blessed us with strong legal authorities who punish that behavior.
While many political agitators are insisting that our legal authorities are inherently oppressive, the Bible actually teaches that they are the ones keeping us from destroying each other.
"For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you want to be unafraid of the one in authority? Do what is good, and you will have its approval. For it is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, because it does not carry the sword for no reason. For it is God’s servant, an avenger that brings wrath on the one who does wrong." (Romans 13:3-4, CSB)
At times, police, judges, and lawmakers make mistakes and may even act corruptly. They certainly may not have seemed like God’s servants when they put Paul to death a few years after he wrote each verse I have quoted in this blog post.
Even still, the fact that our legal authorities are imperfect and, at times, act sinfully doesn’t change our obligation to obey them. One day, Jesus Christ will reign perfectly; but until then, God executes justice on our planet through imperfect authorities to whom we must submit.
In fact, we ought to thank God for them.
Pray. As you see the tense social climate, pray for our authorities. God wants them to maintain order in society so that the gospel can be heard and people can be saved. Pray for leaders who are Republicans, Democrats, Socialists, and the Seattle City Council.
“First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all those who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good, and it pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:1-4, CSB).
Pastor David Robinson