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Subjection is not Subjugation
Persons who violate the law of our nation are subject to prosecution. I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order.”
“I can say that it is very biblical to enforce the law, that is actually repeated a number of times throughout the Bible”
-Sarah Huckabee Sanders
If the interpretation and application of Romans 13 in the statements of Jeff Sessions and Sarah Huckabee Sanders is correct then Mr. Sessions, Ms. Sanders, and their supporters must then concede that Romans 13 (since it was written in the context of Nero) means that God was okay with Nero marrying little boys, raping little girls, engaging in homosexual and heterosexual escapades, and sleeping with and murdering his mom — to name a few of Nero’s … um … “highlights” (I wrote more about Nero’s “exploits” in this ebook).
Paul wrote Romans 13 to instruct Christians not to join the nationalist Jewish revolutionary movement, so it is a bit ironic that Mr. Session and Ms. Sanders are using this same verse to support a nationalistic political ideology.
Romans 13, among the many passages of scripture, are instructive of how Christians are to live in response to their government, not how a government is to govern. Outside of specific instructions to the particular context of Israel, not one scripture provides information on how any other government is supposed to function (and if you care to read the rest of Romans, I strongly suggest not even dabbling in the very replacement theology that seeks to apply instructions for Israel to America).
The real danger here is that Romans 13 is instructive for how we as Christians are to respond to our Government, whether we live in the United States of America, North Korea, or the Republic of Iran. Currently, the reactionary right (as they are in power) would have us interpret Romans 13 as carte blanche to rule however they want. Ironically, we should ask the religious right where their calls were for Christians to blindly accept Obamacare because of Romans 13? However, the left would want us to merely dismiss Romans 13 as an unimportant artifact of history confined to the early church.
Romans 13 states explicitly that every person (in particular Christians) are to be subject to their government. Subjection is not subjugation — and that is particularly where Mr. Session, Ms. Sanders, the Trump Administration, and the Religious Right are wrong in their scriptural interpretation.
Subjection requires a voluntary submission on the part of a subject. For subjection to occur, one must be completely free to choose not to subject themselves to their government authority. Without free and voluntary choice, there cannot be subjection. The compulsion to obey the government is subjugation, not subjection. The Greek word for “subject” in Romans 13 is hupotasso and means, “a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden.”
Despite the arguments of many pastors in the antebellum south, slavery was not consistent with Romans 13, because slaves experienced no free choice of their own to subject to the government. Instead, the most horrific and vile system of chattel slavery in all of human history subjugated the slaves.
If subjection is being equated with subjugation, then we ought to be gravely concerned that those making this error do not understand the very gospel of Christ Jesus. If Christ was subjugated or compelled to die and rise again, then there can be no salvation. Instead, Christ voluntarily chose to become the ultimate subject and bare the punishment for our sins. As Christ voluntarily chose to become the ultimate subject, we then get the free choice to honor Christ and freely choose to subject ourselves to our temporal government authorities. However, without making a voluntary decision, we cannot become a subject. A voluntarily choice requires that we have the complete option to choose not to become a subject.
Romans 13 is a verse that informs Christians how God would like us to choose to live in response to our government voluntarily; Romans 13 is not a hammer or sickle to be wielded by those that temporarily hold political power.
“[Hupotasso] yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
Hupotasso — New Testament Greek Lexicon — King James Version. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/kjv/hupotasso.html