Submitting to Sinners

What are we to do when governments and authorities allow abortion to run rampant? What are we to do when governments and authorities sow seeds of systemic racism? What are we to do when governments and authorities destroy life at any level? What are we to do when governments and authorities commit genocide? What are we to do when governments and authorities attack the church, persecuting and executing?

We are to submit.

Now if you’re like me, you probably think that doesn’t sound right at all. In fact, it makes you bristle and bow up. Submission is a term that shows weakness, that makes us think of being pinned to the mat in a wrestling match. Yet, despite our desire to be our own governing authorities, we are called in Scripture to submit to those God has established over us.

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. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. – Romans 13:1-2

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority – 1 Peter 2:13a

These verses still rub me the wrong way. If you’re like me, it’s okay to acknowledge that. We don’t like being led, governed, being told what to do. We have grown up in a culture that tells us we are governing ourselves. That doesn’t line up with Romans and 1 Peter. We are called to submit to authority over us, because authorities over us have been put in place by God. We are called to submit to authority over us, because it gives God glory, it is for ‘the Lord’s sake’.

Let’s be clear however about what submission is and isn’t.

SUBMISSION ISN’T SILENCE.

This is probably one of the biggest misconceptions about what it means to submit. Submission doesn’t mean keeping quiet about sin and injustice. There isn’t a country in the world (that I know of) that fully lines up all of their laws and legislations with the commands and character of God. That kind of place doesn’t exist in a Genesis 3 world. So what that means for us as Christians is that the countries we reside in have sinners at the helm and these leaders won’t always lead their country into conformity with the cause and commands of Christ.

In those moments, we are given the right and responsibility to speak up.

Now, there is a way to speak up however. Facebook fights and Twitter clap-backs aren’t the way. Instead, raise awareness. Go to the source. Model it in your own local community. Be humble. Be kind. We have a world full of slacktivists unfortunately, those of us who write about what we should change in our country without striving to do just that at a local level. Man, I’m bad at that.

Submission is not silence. It is however words spoken in kindness and humility, actions taken in a local community, not violent riots.

SUBMISSION SOMETIMES INCLUDES SUFFERING.

Oh how I wish at times that this wasn’t true, but alas it is. When we submit to the government that we are under, that can sometimes lead to suffering.

Earlier today I watched a video, it was a clip of a sermon from a pastor in China named Wang Yi. This pastor was the epitome of what I am writing about in this blog. He was telling his congregation, with much passion, that they were called to speak up and tell the president and leaders of their country that they were sinners in need of the grace of God. He was saying that they could best exemplify and extend the grace of God to these sinful men by suffering. Over and over he attested that if they were to be persecuted and responded with grace, their sinful leadership would encounter the grace of God and turn to the Lord. He was willing to lead his people into suffering via submitting to this government that he was under!

He is now in prison for his belief in Jesus.

He is now walking out what he preached.

He is now extending the grace of God to those who hold him captive.

He was not silent in the midst of a sinful government, but he knew that he was under this government for a reason. That reason appears to be so that through persecution he could extend the grace of God!

SUBMISSION IS WITNESS.

This is the most important aspect of submitting to earthly rulers. When we do so, we are proclaiming the fact that God is ultimately governing those who govern us. Less and less people willingly submit to authority these days, and when we do this it points to the ultimately rule and reign of Jesus. Consider the following verses.

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been give to me. – Matthew 28:18 

The risen Jesus is proclaiming to His disciples that He holds all authority over all things, both in heaven and on earth.

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; – Psalm 24:1 

David is proclaiming the truth that all that is in the world is the Lord’s. Everything comes under His authority!

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. – Acts 1:8

Just after a short dialogue about the kingdom of God, we see Jesus telling His followers that they would bear witness to the gospel. Since this was in the midst of a dialogue on the Kingdom, you could make the argument that they are to be witnesses to the King and His Kingdom as well.

In summary, when we submit to earthly authorities, at whatever level, we are bearing witness to the One who controls all things.

So Trump and company may not have my support in all that they do, but they have my respect. They have my submission. Because I know who is on the throne.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

Faithfully Waiting For Justice

I wish more people read the minor prophets. Besides Jonah, the easiest one.

I wish I read the minor prophets more.

Two conversations have happened in my life recently that have made me more desirous of these little nuggets of Scripture.

The first one was with one of my best friends. The two of us have a tradition of venting to each other about things that come up in our lives followed by offering up prayer and support for each other as we walk out our faith. He was bringing up how many churches seem to have made the book of Acts the entirety of the Bible. What he meant was so many churches have an “Acts-model” of church, small groups, etc. There is a borderline obsession on the part of countless churches and people I know to be EXACTLY like the early church in the book of Acts. I wholeheartedly agree that we could and should live out our faith with the trust, courage, and fervor of the early church. BUT, no one book of the Bible is more important than another. They all are canonized for a reason. Some may be easier to understand, may better articulate the gospel, etc, but Paul says that ALL Scripture is God-breathed and useful for the training up of the saints. (2 Timothy 3:16)

The other discussion was with a student who said that he was looking at his table of contents in his Bible and saw one of the minor prophets and wondered how long it had been there. We laughed about it but in reality I can assure you that not many of us grab our coffee in the morning and turn to the minor prophets. I don’t hear much about these in our churches and in our conversations about faith.

However, I have recently read through the book of Habakkuk, underlining, writing in the margins, and being awed by the truths that are found in this book with way too many consonants in the title.

Here are some truths to glean from the book. If this book confuses you like it did me, check out the Read Scripture video summary on it, it was incredibly insightful.

1. SOMETIMES GOD FEELS UNJUST

If you open your eyes to the world around you, nothing seems fair. The wicked and unrighteous appear to thrive in their kingdoms of sand, and the devoted followers of Jesus who reside in countries where persecution is rampant continue to be swallowed up by violence. When we take a look at our own lives, we may feel slighted by God as well (although when we look at this feeling through a gospel lens we are reminded that God has blessed us with much). Habakkuk shares these raw emotions with the Lord in both 1:2 and 1:13. He asks God why He is silent in the midst of violence, why He doesn’t come to the rescue when the wicked thrive.

2. PRIDE IS A SIGN OF SPIRITUAL BROKENNESS

The verse that caught me off guard and convicted me was 2:4. It says this:

Behold, as for the proud one, His soul is not right within him; But the righteous will live by his faith. – Habakkuk 2:4

Wowza. This made me squirm. I feel prideful often. I look at my own knowledge of the Scriptures (which is really not that impressive) and become proud. I become proud of the abilities and gifts that God has given me. I can start to think that my ministry will be successful or that I will survive the year ahead because of my own abilities and strengths. Yet the prophet Habakkuk compares this level of arrogance to a man whose very soul is not right within him. This goes back to the previous point. We have been blessed by God. All that we have is from him. I wrote in my Bible next to this verse, “Pride is proof of not getting the gospel.” If I am arrogant, I legitimately have missed the message of the gospel.

3. WE LIVE IN THE MIDST OF CORRUPTION

Well, this part of Habakkuk was hard to accept as well. Now let me be clear I am immensely grateful for the USA. I have been afforded so much freedom, freedom that my own father fought for, and I don’t take that for granted.

However, we are not God’s country. We are not the people of God. Americans are not the people of God.

The older I get, the more I come to realize that we live in a country that while better than most, is not aligned with Christian values. At least not currently.

Habakkuk pronounces many woes on the Babylonians (or Chaldeans) who would come and enslave the people of God. He calls them out for their unjust economics, their enslavement of other nations, their irresponsible leaders, and their idolatry. Every single nation ever has struggled with one or more of these indictments, including the very people of God.

I just am reminded through Habakkuk that my hope should not be in America (The American Flag or The Cross). It should be in Christ the King.

4. WHAT GOD HAS PROMISED WILL COME TO PASS

From the very first page of the Bible, this doctrine has exploded off each and every page as I read. God says certain things about the order of creation and the text tells us ‘and it was so’. I was reading in Jeremiah 1 this afternoon and noticed that in verse 12 God says that He is ‘watching over my word to perform it.’ So as He commissions Jeremiah, He promises to be with Jeremiah in order for His words to come to pass.

Now this truth may not be explicitly present in Habakkuk. However, the entire final chapter speaks of what God did in the exodus and what He will one day do in the ‘Day of the Lord’. Everything that God promises, especially when it comes to rescue and justice, will come to pass in fullness.

5. WE CAN LIVE BY FAITH

When you boil it down, the book of Habakkuk is a powerful reminder of what it means to live by faith. Habakkuk was overwhelmed by the presence of violence all around him. He cried out to God. God answers by saying He will bring Babylon down on the people of Israel (God can use wicked nations for His glory and our good). Habakkuk is fearful of this proposition and God promises to bring down the Babylonians one day as well.

Just notice the change in Habakkuk’s outlook.

Yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. – Habakkuk 3:18

This was highlighted in my Bible as well.

We live amongst injustice and violence.

Sometimes that is all we can see.

Yet we can be like Habakkuk and faithfully wait on the justice of God, rejoicing in the God who saves.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

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