Everyone must submit himself 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, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.
Romans 13:1-7 (NIV)
I have a love/hate relationship with driving. On the love side: I love the scenery, the feel of the road moving beneath me, the solitude it can present, the freedom it can provide, the possibilities it unfolds and the opportunities for great conversations with family and friends. On the hate side: I hate irresponsibility behind the wheel, the selfishness I see on the road, the danger that others put my family in and the kind of person I can change into behind the wheel.
Maybe you understand my dilemma. It is difficult to think kindly of your neighbor when they just about plow through you at an intersection because they are talking on their cell phone. It is especially hard when their response to this potentially injurious situation is a flippant wave and vacuous smile. It is even harder when you catch sight of the Jesus fish decal on the back of the rapidly moving vehicle that almost sent you to heaven. I don’t feel bad for being angry at any of this, but I do feel bad about what that anger can lead me into.
There are really two issues at hand here: my lack of grace and compassion and a misunderstanding of the Christian’s relationship to man’s law. Let me deal with the second issue first and leave self-recrimination for later.
Admittedly, “…through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:2 NIV) This is an awesome truth of scripture and it should encourage every believer in their walk with God. However, this is specific to our relationship with God, not other people. This is why Paul makes sure to include the passage in Romans 13, even going so far as to say that obedience to man’s law is obedience to God. In a sense, believers are more bound to man’s law than unbelievers, the believer’s obedience being bound up in their love for God.
So should Christians speed, or chat on their cell phone while they are driving, or park in the handicapped space because “it will only be a minute?” If they are against man’s law, then Scripture would say “No.” But this is a matter of personal conscience as each believer struggles through his relationship with the world around him. This brings me to the self-recrimination part of this post.
It really doesn’t matter if I am right about what makes me angry if that anger then leads me into sinful thoughts and ways of thinking. You see, I begin to make assumptions and judgments on others that are not only unfair, but unbiblical. While I am bound to man’s law, it is the law of love that should oversee that relationship. Too often my anger at the way people drive, can lead me into hateful attitudes and taint my vision to see others as objects rather than people. This doesn’t fit with Paul’s admonition to “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3 NIV)
So there is a balancing act for us to walk between obeying the law and extending grace and compassion when it is broken. It is far more important for me to be obedient than to be concerned about everyone else being obedient, but pride can get me to thinking I am some sort of traffic cop for Jesus. If you think about it, say a prayer, for this is an area of growth for me, and I am certain my wife would appreciate it. Thus ends the self-recrimination and begins the reformation of an angry driver.