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I have finally made it back to Washington. It was a blessing to be able to help my family in California this past month. Yesterday was a great morning with my church family and family in Bellingham. God’s presence was with us, even in the present restraints. We can be thankful to God for who He is and for His presence with us in all things. We must honor men, while never dishonoring God for who He is at all times and in all situations.
In a world of global shutdowns, human restraints and restrictions, and growing mandates of control – what is the line of obedience as a believer? We are to honor governing authority, but we must also know that the authority of God cannot be dishonored in our honor for the power of men. Power and authority are not the same thing. Authority is a God-given measure for the sake of bringing life to others. Power that is taken that is not within your sphere of God-given influence will create dysfunction and death in some way. A nurse has a God-given measure of authority as a nurse, but not a God-given measure as a doctor. A doctor has a God-given measure as a doctor, but not as the personal voice of a patient’s conscience. A governor has a God-given measure as a governor, but not as a parent to your children or a voice in your own home. True authority is the power of being what something is and not beyond the measure of what it is.
Romans 13:1 Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. 4 For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. 5 Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. 7 Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.
The Apostle Paul wrote these words at a time when the ruling emperor of Rome was Nero Caesar. Nero was a wicked and evil man. He was a homosexual, kicked his pregnant wife to death, his favorite aphrodisiac was to watch people suffer horrifying and disgusting torture, and he married men on two occasions in public ceremonies (consummating them publicly). He would clothe men and women (especially Christians) in the skins of wild animals and watch as dogs tore their bodies apart. He considered this a stimulating aphrodisiac. He used burning Christians to light the Roman streets as well as light for his carnal garden parties. Nero launched the first imperial persecution of Christians at the instigation of the Jews in order to destroy the Church. He erected a 120-foot-high image of himself and demanded absolute worship of himself. He controlled his kingdom through suicide orders, and the like. He was the epitome of a kingdom and system of darkness. Paul said that believers were to be subject even to rulers, such as Nero, within the bounds of their God-given responsibility. Paul wasn’t telling believers to be subject to Nero’s perversity or dishonor for life or God. He was simply saying respect the governing authority even in their flaws. Pay your taxes, even if you think they are unfair. I address this subject in my book and online courses concerning authority (Authority – Control? or Release! – Understanding Authority (Part 1) – Understanding Authority (Part 2) – www.houseofbread.store).
What is our stand as believers in times where men and women grasp for power? One can have power without manifesting true authority. Authority is meant to give life. We cannot control what the powers in the world do, but we can be true to being who we are as sons and daughters of God. A good question to always ask is: will my attitude and action produce life? An attitude or action simply based upon being right is not the same as that of producing life. A judgment of law is not the same as a judgment of love. Actions don’t necessarily grieve the Holy Spirit, but attitudes for sure do. I deal with a lot of churches on a global spectrum and pastors and leaders are having to navigate rules and restraints imposed upon them by the secular governing authorities without dishonoring God. I believe we have to walk these things out, not in defiance of the powers of the world, but in honor to the best of our ability. When the world says we cannot do something our reaction should not be against what the world is putting upon us, but one of maintaining our faithfulness to God while still walking in honor to the authorities of our world. How do we love and serve God in the midst of restraint? How do we find our ‘yes’ towards God in the midst of a ‘no’ in the world?
Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were among the captives placed into service of the king after Babylon laid siege to their nation (Dan. 1:7). These men were placed into a natural circumstance that destroyed all of their former expectations of the future as sons in Judah. They were even made eunuchs, a surgical procedure that destroyed their ability to have children or the family life they had hoped to have. Natural sight was for sure a challenge to their faith. After assessing the situation, these men requested that they be allowed to eat only vegetables and drink only water for ten days (Dan. 1:12). The number ten is symbolic of ‘completeness’, ‘totality’, ‘judgment’ – more specifically, a ‘judgment of love’, as the ten commandments sum up a love for God and a love for others. The lives of these men exhibited a faith towards God and a testimony of not fearing death. Faith works through love (Gal. 5:6, 13). These men refused to compromise in their love for God and they were not shaken in their belief of His love for them. They had faith to eat the Babylonian vegetables and drink the Babylonian water; but eating the other delicacies of Babylon would compromise their faith towards God. They refused to be separated from their love for God while still being faithful to learn the language, the culture, and the skills of Babylon. They were a voice of wisdom to Babylon and they continued in the midst of a worldly circumstance for seventy years without being able to keep the former customs of Judah as they had been. They worshiped God from their hearts, not merely with their past traditions. They did this with an attitude and an expectation of life!
This is not a time to measure leaders as to the decisions of church actions. It is time to be the body of Christ in the midst of challenging times. If the actions of the present can change the attitude of your heart you need to find a deeper connection with God and one another with an attitude of life. Do not quench the Holy Spirit! Keep a right heart and an attitude of life in all things.
Ted J. Hanson
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