Establishing a State Religion

firstHere’s how this works.

Each day I’ll read and S.O.A.P. one chapter of Romans. S.O.A.P. is a simple way to focus on what God is speaking to you through what you read. It stands for ScriptureObservationApplication, & Prayer.

Every time I read a chapter God always focuses my heart and mind around a specific part of that chapter. Sometimes it’s just a verse. Sometimes it’s more than that. That verse or group of verses becomes the focus of my devo.

There’s one other practice that helps me know, understand and follow scripture – memorization. Consider memorizing the verse or verses you S.O.A.P.


Romans 13

SCRIPTURE

Romans 13:1, “Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God.”

OBSERVATION

An ancient Chinese proverb – some call it a curse – says, “May you live in interesting times.” For those who are Believers we certainly live in interesting times. History books have called America a Christian nation. Without an official edict or government mandate the history of the U.S.A. is filled with stories of people who have placed their faith in God and called on Jesus as their Savior. Our Ivy League institutions were founded as centers for higher learning. Many were focused on teaching people and preachers the depths of theology in preparation for ministry. Higher learning in these days meant not only the advancement of traditional sciences but a recognition that there is more to this world than science can explain. God is on high and any truly higher learning must include a study of him.

But we’ve gotten away from this as a nation. Our Ivy League schools are more interested in business, law, science and engineering. Our government still doesn’t have an officially established religion, but it would seem we do have a State sponsored set of doctrine.

  • Prayer in schools and government institutions is acceptable, just don’t mention Jesus.
  • Talk about sin is okay, just don’t be so specific as to include sexual immorality in your discussion.
  • Conversations about how faith influences politics are just fine as long as you land on the liberal side of the aisle. If faith talk leads you to a conservative answer your words are not ‘sanctioned’.
  • Diversity of opinion is okay, encouraged even, as long as you agree with the current administration.

There’s more to the unofficial doctrine of the U.S. Government, but I won’t list it here.

Romans 13 is a challenging chapter in light of our current social and political climate. It seems this nation, once open to Christianity, is slowly rejecting the most basic principles of our faith. Our government is becoming increasingly combative toward and exclusive of people of faith. How should we respond?

APPLICATION

I won’t go into a full response here. This is post is intended to be a more devotional space. Let me point out a few things. When Paul wrote these words there was nothing ‘Christian’ about the government. Political leaders in the Romans Empire were pagan. Caesar worship was common – meaning the man at the top of the government was considered a god. The government of Rome was not inclined to assist people of any faith. They saw religion as a tool to keep the masses under control. When religion stepped out of the bounds the Roman response was quick and severe. They would identify the religion and wipe it out.

They tried this with Christianity. They didn’t like it. They didn’t understand it. They saw it as a threat. So Christians became the stuff of sport, entertainment in the Colosseum, dinner for hungry lions. During Paul’s time Christianity was so young the Roman government didn’t really know what to think about Christianity, but things were headed this direction.

Still, Paul writes Romans 13.

America, as a whole, has an established religion. We may sometimes hear the traditional language of Christianity used to describe this faith, but the heart of our established religion isn’t Jesus or the Bible. It’s secular humanism. This established religion is defended by law and slowly eating away at our religious liberties.

Yet Paul’s response is still the same. Give honor to those in authority. Paul’s example is a good one. He used his citizenship as an opportunity to spread his faith. He used the law of the day as a platform for ministry. His goal wasn’t to establish a state religion. His goal was to establish faith in Jesus Christ in the hearts of people.

His method worked. We’re still talking about his faith today.

Regardless of what our government does. Even if living your faith means facing the same persecution Paul did, respect the authority of those in office. Express your faith. Share your opinion. Use your influence, position and the laws of the day to establish faith in Jesus Christ in the hearts of people. In the end, that’s so much more valuable than trying to legally establish a state religion.

PRAYER

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for our President, Congressional leaders and the Justices of our Courts. Bless them with your favor today. They may or may not believe they serve you. Whatever the case, surround them with people who will help establish faith in Jesus Christ in their hearts. Let them know your favor in every position, law, argument and issue that lines up with your will and your way. Resist them in every plan that is contrary to you. Teach them to lead well.

Since we are a government of, by and for the people – convict the people of our nation, grant us the gift of repentance and the capacity for forgiveness. I ask you to bless America, but not simply with prosperity and peace. Bless us with your presence and the courage and strength to follow you.

Show me how I can use my influence, position, citizenship and the laws of our day to establish faith in Jesus Christ in the hearts of people.

I love you, in Jesus name –
Chad

3 replies
  1. Janie Balthrop
    Janie Balthrop says:

    Ouch, Chad! Romans 13 spoke to me loud and clear this morning! It seems that every day I read something that incites negativism in me towards those in authority, especially our President, Congressional leaders and the Justices of our Courts. I find it difficult to respect anything about them. I do pray for them but from this day forward, I will pray for them differently (and, I will strive to change my attitude). Thank you for your input, opinions & daily devotions. I like your style…

  2. Kasey
    Kasey says:

    I think we all need a healthy dose of the truths from Romans 13. It seems almost wrong to submit to the current governing body, but I know that God is in control. He’s not surprised by the radical path that I see taking place. I’m confident his word has a divine purpose in leading us in a direction that will in turn lead to him being glorified.

  3. Chad Balthrop
    Chad Balthrop says:

    That’s the greatest challenge of Romans 13. The government and leaders Paul experienced were vastly more combative to the gospel and the principles of Scripture than anything we’ve experienced in our lifetime, yet stil, under the authority of the Holy Spirit, he writes Romans 13.

    I agree it seems wrong to submit to a governing body that selectively rejects the portions of Scripture they find inconvenient. We have to learn how to submit without denying our beliefs. Paul, Daniel and other Believers have done this successfully. Their submission to God and the state sometimes led to martyrdom. I don’t want our nation to go that direction. We are a government of, by and for the people which means we have a much greater level influence over our government than Paul did.

    We must use that influence wisely.

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