• John Branyan

Romans 13 Doesn't Mean What You Think it Does



My brother and I played chess when we were kids. He usually won because he insisted we play by the classic rules which don't recognize angrily flipping the board over as a legal move. Without that move in my arsenal, I simply couldn't beat him.


Many times my brother would sanctimoniously lecture me about the importance of following the rules. He would blather endlessly about my lack of respect for the integrity of the game. "John, " he would say, "It's no fun to play with a poor loser."


Loser? We just disagreed about rules! The way I saw it, hurling the board across the room was a solid, tactical maneuver. The 'classic rules' of chess don't allow for that strategy. I'm not a loser just because I follow a different authority. Right?


You might be tempted to dismiss my absurd reasoning as irrelevant, but do not succumb to that temptation. Absurdity is very much in vogue these days. Rationality and reason have fallen out of style so don't ignore what I'm about to say just because it's crazy. Insane is the new normal and I'll bet you know at least one person who uses this cockeyed perspective to interpret Romans 13.


Allow me to explain...


Romans 13 says, "Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God."


The message is crystal clear. It is the duty of every Christian to submit to the governing authorities that God has placed over you. The first step in fulfilling this duty is answering the question, "Who are the governing authorities?" This critical first step is faithfully skipped by most of the people who hurl Romans 13 at you when they find out you went to church without a mask and even sang songs and (gasp!) shook hands!


Assembling in large groups while singing songs with bare faces is one of the 'classic rules' in the United States. It is a rule established by the authority of the Constitution. The Constitution is the 'rules of the game.' It dictates how the pieces move around on the board. One of the explicit rules you'll find in the Constitution is that elected officials are not allowed to make laws affecting the free exercise of religion.


The 'governing authority' in America is not a person. It is the people. Officials are elected to enforce the rules of the game and they cannot change the rules without permission from the governing authority. Again; that's us. And, holding a political office does not exempt anyone from following the rules.


So, when a Governor or Mayor or City Councilman forces you to make adjustments to the way you practice religion, they are flipping over the chess board. It is your power-crazed politician who tramples on God's established authority; not the person singing hymns without a face covering.



Of course, you shouldn't expect power-crazed politicians to admit they're breaking the rules. You should expect them to justify their sin. You should expect them to argue that they're only doing the job YOU elected them to do. In other words, you should expect them to lie.


Early on, the self-proclaimed "authorities" told you that shutdowns were necessary to keep COVID cases from ravaging the population. Staying home would keep the disease from spreading to our most vulnerable citizens. Then, increased testing revealed millions of people had contracted the virus. Yowza! Humanity is on the verge of extinction! Our "authorities" need to lock things down even tighter. Institute martial law! Declare a state of emergency and put everyone under house arrest!


But that's not what happened. In response to the surging number of COVID cases, the Democratic governors started opening everything up because, "it's crucial to get the economy working again." Thus, the lie was revealed. The lockdowns, mandates, and various restrictions of freedom were not implemented out of concern for your safety. The entire pandemic has been mostly a pack of political pantomimes.


Even if the ruling elite were sincerely motivated by a desire to keep you from getting sick, they were still dead wrong. You didn't elect any politicians thinking they could protect you from viruses. (If you did cast a vote because a candidate promised to prolong your life then please never vote again.) You elected them to preserve the peace so you could concentrate on living life and pursuing happiness. It's not a politician's job to setup your self-care plan. It's not up to Congress to decide whether or not you should be vaccinated for any reason.


You may appreciate their concern for your welfare. You may be grateful to have such compassionate people in office; but those caring people are still cheaters. They're making up rules as they go along. When politicians dictate policies aimed at preventing you from getting the flu, they are flipping over the chess board. It is absurd to sit smiling among the scattered pieces and say, "It's okay. They meant well."



Despite what you've heard from the Democrats, something is going to kill you some day. There are no laws that will insulate you from the consequences of being mortal. The best leaders acknowledge this as a classic rule of the game. Kristie Noem is an example of someone who knows how to play by the rules without flipping the board.


Next time someone directs your attention to Romans 13 and scolds you for defying "governing authorities," ask them to explain which governing authority they mean. Then (gently) inform them that, in the United States, the authority is the law and not a person in public office. Then (still being gentle) inform them that breaking the law is a violation of Romans 13 even when the law breaker claims to be "an authority."


If they still don't understand, challenge them to a game of chess, dump the pieces into their lap and declare yourself the winner.

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