Peter Brown (Ballymoney)
Submission to the Authorities
“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 honour, then honour.”
Romans 13 vv1-7 (NIV, 1984)
Having just finished helping count the nominations in the election for our new Congregational Committee in church and as a former local councillor myself I am perhaps more conscious than most lawyers or members of the general public of the imminent European and UK local government elections.
We, in the legal profession, are particularly aware of the impact of membership of the European Union on our everyday lives, whether as citizens, lawyers or Christians, or indeed all three. We also, perhaps, appreciate more than most the often underestimated influence of local councils on our everyday lives.
We are exhorted by this passage to remember that the authorities such as the European parliament and our local councils are divinely established means of ruling people, by God’s appointed authorities, for the good of society and to prevent anarchy and that we should submit to them.
Membership of the legal profession and our faith (and sometimes a combination of the two) can bring us individually into conflict with these authorities, whether local councils or the European parliament being elected this week, our parliament or our devolved assemblies. We should bear in mind that our submission should only be to the extent that this is consistent with our faith and beliefs, which is where we can have differences of opinion, but remembering that the default position of the Christian is submission to the divinely established authorities and that dissent must be biblically justified.
1) Pray for the upcoming elections, and for all those who are part of our governing authorities – that they may be given Godly wisdom to lead us.