Honouring our Leaders

Romans 13: 1Let 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.

There is a tradition in the United States where the winning team of the various professional sporting organizations gets honoured by appearing at the White House with the President.  A few years ago one player on the National Hockey League (NHL) winning team refused to go to the White House, in an apparent stand against new policies the President’s administration had implemented.  I later heard that this player was a Christian.

Looking into policies/rules he had concerns with, I’d have to echo those concerns, but I also feel he made a huge error in judgment and dishonoured his leader.  If you read Romans 13 you will find some very difficult instructions about honouring our leaders.  You will find the difficult-to-understand statement that there is “no authority except that which God has established” (vs 1).  In Paul’s letter he goes even further to say:  “Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.” (vs 2).

The word “established” or “appointed” that Paul used was the Greek tasso which means “to arrange in an orderly manner; to assign or dispose to a certain position or lot; to appoint, determine, ordain, set”.  That same word tasso is used in one other verse in the New Testament in Acts 13:48: “When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed (tasso’d) for eternal life believed.”

This is admittedly a very difficult concept to understand.  Maybe Paul was living in a different time and the leaders then were more worthy of honour.  Well if you’ve studied any Roman history you know that isn’t the case.  In the years around when Paul wrote this letter (A.D. 57) Claudius had his wife (and her lover) murdered, and he had Jewish Christians expelled because they were followers of Christ.  His wife Agrippa had him poisoned so her son Nero could have power.  While it was seven years after the writing of this letter, Nero proved to be the worst of them all, setting a fire to Rome that destroyed three quarters of the city and then he blamed the Christians and arrested and tortured a number of them.

It was in this context that Paul encouraged the Christians in Rome to “be subject to the governing authorities”. There may be a few of you, as Christian Athletes, who will one day have the extreme privilege of representing your country in sports.  My prayer is that you honour those in authority, no matter how their views may differ from yours.  And even if you never represent your country in athletics, I pray that you will all honour your leaders and not rebel against what God has instituted.

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