The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Christians in Rome, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, penned the following words found in Romans 13:1-7:
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.
Map of Malawi, "The Warm Heart of Africa"
As the nation of Malawi continues to mourn the loss of her third President, His Excellency, the Late Professor Bingu wa Mutharika, I would like to remind us all of this biblical teaching that “there is authority except from God” (Ro. 13:1). These words have massive implications on us all as a nation especially at this particular time.
As I pointed out in my post yesterday,
“…Times of great tragedy and loss like the one that we are going through now as a nation, provide us with wonderful opportunities for deep, serious and penetrating reflection, soul-searching and evaluation of our priorities and the orientation of our lives. Tragic times like these as unpleasant, hard and painful as they are often special gifts and conduits of blessing from our gracious Lord who does all things well. The LORD often orchestrates and uses such tragic events to shape us into the kind of people that He wants us to be and to fulfill His purposes in/through us to His glory.”
In today’s post, I would like to reflect with you on some of the implications that Romans 13:1-7has for all of us even as we mourn the death of our former President.
His Excellency, the Late President, Professor Bingu wa Mutharika & Madam Callista Mutharika
Implications for the Citizenry in General: The Bible here clearly teaches that it is befitting that subjects give due honor and utmost respect to “governing authorities” whoever they may be. To reinforce this, Paul reaches for the highest reason he could find, namely that God is the One who appoints these authorities. These governing authorities (regardless of who they are or what one may think of them), are God’s chosen servants. Consider the following verses in Romans 13:1-7 and notice the highlighted phrases:
Verse 1: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God;”
Verse 2: “Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.
Verse 4: “For he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.
Verse 6: “For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing.”
It’s interesting to note how much emphasis Paul puts on the fact that the governing authorities are God’s servants (seven times in these seven short verses). The implication is that anyone who messes with these governing authorities messes with God and “will incur (God’s) judgment” (verse 2). This is huge!
We are to Honor and Submit to Both Good and Bad “Governing Authorities.”
Emperor Nero mercilessly persecuted and killed many Christians
It’s also interesting to note that Paul does not give any other qualification when he talks of these “governing authorities.” Some of us would expect him to say, “Let every person be subject to ‘good’ ‘governing authorities’”. But the Bible is silent there. Why? I think the reason is this: It doesn’t matter whether we consider those “governing authorities” to be good or bad. That’s irrelevant when it comes to this exhortation. We are to submit to them all – the good ones and the bad ones. In saying this of course, the Bible is not condoning bad government. Besides the fact that these “governing authorities” have been appointed by God and that they are His “ministers,” Paul wants to impress upon us that if we find ourselves under bad, cruel, uncaring and oppressive “governing authorities,” we still need to submit to them by honoring and respecting them as those who have been appointed by God to be His “servants/ministers” vested with His authority to rule over us. Their failures, mistakes and sins do not exempt any of us from this divine obligation. We will all give an account for our own sins – other people’s sins are in no way excuses for our sins – neither are other people’s sins licenses for us to indulge in or rationalize our sins (hate speeches, retribution, mercilessness, etc).
Another interesting thing to note regarding this is the fact that Paul wrote these words in about 57 A.D. That is very significant because Caesar Nero was the “governing authority” during this time. He reigned over Rome as Emperor from 54 to 68 A. D. – and he was not a good leader by any stretch of imaginations.
The implications are doubly binding and serious for Christian citizens as they were when Paul wrote these words. One Bible commentator makes this observation:
The grace of the gospel teaches us submission and quiet, where pride and the carnal mind only see causes for murmuring and discontent. Whatever the persons in authority over us themselves may be, yet the just power they have, must be submitted to and obeyed…This directs private persons to behave quietly and peaceably where God has set them (1 Ti 2:1,2). Christians must not use any trick or fraud. All smuggling, dealing in contraband goods, withholding or evading duties, is rebellion against the express command of God. The lesson here taught it becomes all Christians to learn and practice, that the godly in the land will always be found the quiet and the peaceable in the land, whatever others are.
Madam Callista Mutharika, Former First Lady
In our present situation, it is a known fact that not everyone thought well of the late President, Professor Bingu wa Mutharika especially in the last two years of his regime. Although we would all agree that his first five years was excellent, very few (if any) would have described him as a good, caring and kind “governing authority” at the time of his death. Yet, the fact remains that he was God’s appointed “governing authority” (President) for Malawi for the time that he was in power (2004-2012). Regardless of what our personal view concerning our late President, His Excellency Professor Bingu wa Mutharika, it is my sincere hope and prayer that as Malawians, we will give honor his memory and respectfully mourn his death for he was truly a God-appointed servant to rule over us. One of the ways we can do this is by praying for, expressing our sympathy and giving our support to Madam Callista Mutharika, and the bereaved family.
The LORD God will hold us accountable (not Bingu) for how we conduct ourselves. Each of us will answer for himself/herself before God at the end of our lives. Let us then be careful not to “incur (God’s) judgment.” “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Corinthians 5:10).
Finally, I applaud the incumbent State President, Her Excellency, Mrs. Joyce Mtila Banda for calling on us all, to respectfully mourn our late President. I also applaud “Soldier” Lucius Banda for putting Romans 13:1-7 into practice by honoring the memory of the late President with this beautiful song entitled, Tribute to The Late Bingu wa Mutharika. You can listen to this song here:
The teaching of Romans 13:1-7 also has implications for our national leaders, but for that, we will have to wait until tomorrow, Lord willing.
Please visit the Bible Answers blog for Part 1 and Part 2 of these reflections.
May the LORD God bless Malawi and bless us all!