Please keep in mind that I am not a theologian nor am I a historian. I am just like you, a man (or woman) reading the new testament and trying to extract any truth that I can from it so that I can apply that truth to my life.
Paul starts out this chapter talking about a very controversial subject, government. He states that “all authority comes from God and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished”. Wow! Would that statement be controversial in America today! I know that our founders believed in “one nation under God” but using that term today is widely debated. Honestly, I read this and waited two weeks before writing this blog.
Please keep in mind, I am not speaking with authority, I am just wondering out loud. My wife, Kris, and I have recently been watching “the Crown” a series about the British Monarch. From that series, I learned that The Monarch is considered “the Sovereign” in terms of British rule, answerable only to God and is also considered the head of the church of England. Under that governing framework Paul’s statement makes sense and I wonder (again I am not a historian) if most governments of Paul’s day, or specifically the Roman government bore more resemblance to a Monarch, than our American government does. We have one of those newfangled governments that is “of the people, by the people and for the people” with no King or Queen, and seemingly no sovereign. Our form of government works because of our ability to have peaceful revolutions or rebellions. Maybe we the people have “the Sovereign” role of holding our government accountable to the norms that we espouse to, in my case those norms are hopefully in harmony with the teaching of Jesus. So, I am curious if Paul would have chosen those same words today for Americans. I would love to hear how others react to what Paul wrote. I bet there was some instability and rebellion going on in the society Paul was addressing just as there is in our society today.
I don’t find the second part of chapter 13 as controversial. Being an advocate of living debt free (or at least working toward freedom from debt), verse 8 which says “owe nothing to anyone…except for your obligation to love one another” resonates with me. I equate debt with bondage. It limits freedom, and I believe that God intended for us to live in freedom.