Randy Langham
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I left the church office at 9:45 pm. hoping I could get home in time to make it into bed by 10 pm. Just as I turned on the engine the entire front of the church building lit up. That was strange, because I don’t believe in UFOs. For a moment I wondered if maybe they did.

I pulled out of the parking lot and immediately the car and the surrounding area was under a bright light. Turns out a police helicopter spotted me and soon police cars had signaled for me to pull over. I did. After I told him I was the pastor of the church he took my license and insurance card and walked away. He was gone for over 15 minutes, and my body was starting to crash. At that time, when I went to sleep, very little could wake me up. The only thing keeping me awake was my anger that it was taking so long. My worry was that they would return and find me so groggy they would arrest me for seeming drunkenness.

Turns out he went to the front door of the nearest house , showed the people my ID, and they said , “No that ‘s not the pastor.” But I was. I had been at the church only a few weeks. Someone had called 9-1-1 and claimed a man in the area had beaten a woman so the officers were just questioning me. No harm was done, other than missing some sleep. But for some reason I let the episode get the best of me.

So how are we to treat government leaders - even when they make seriously bad decisions?

The rule of evil was the case in the days of Nero, the Roman emperor. Christians were under fire and literally in the fire. They were thrown into arenas so the Roman audience could “enjoy” watching them be eaten by wild animals or be destroyed by soldiers.

In the days of this barbaric butchery the Gospel of Mark and the letters of Peter were written. In these books God revealed to the Christians that Rome had the power of government, but God ruled a greater kingdom which could overthrow the government.

In these brutal Roman days God spoke through Peter, saying, Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right (1 Peter 2:13-14). So the purpose of government is to punish the evil doers and to praise those who do right.

So what if they are wrong? As you might expect, God has something to say about this as well. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God. Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king (2:15-17). Our godly character does a better job of changing hearts than anger could ever do.

Just before the barbaric butchery escalated under Nero Paul wrote his letter to the Christians in Rome saying, the government is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience' sake (Rom 13:4-5). Government leaders are God’s ministers.

We should have respect for all in authority, not just those in government. This principle pertains to family, church, employment, and other areas. In a particular moment this principle impacted the apostle Paul in a setting with religious leaders. In Acts 23 Paul spoke to a council and one of the guys told someone to strike Paul on the mouth. Paul was shocked at the hypocrisy, so he said to him, “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall!” Immediately the bystanders told Paul that the spokesman was the high priest. To that Paul replied, "I was not aware, brethren, that he was high priest; for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’”

As much as I would like to get angry at the decisions of government leaders God keeps reminding me His ways are higher than my ways. The wrath of man does not accomplish the righteousness of God.

Years after the helicopter episode I left my car in a no parking area, only because I thought I could get in and out of an apartment quickly to help a mentally disturbed man. Turns out the resident was not home for me to drop off some material. Wondering what I could do I noticed a telephone booth at the next block. Thinking I could get back before any police officer showed up I ran to the booth, made the call, and dashed back - only to find a police officer standing next to my car writing out a ticket.

I knew I was guilty. I made a quick and soft explanation, and he kept writing. After a moment I told him, “Thanks for being a minister of God for doing good.”

He put my ticket under the windshield wiper, even though I was still standing next to him. He turned around and got into his car. I reached over the hood of my car to get my ticket and got into the car to stew.

The officer pulled his car next to mine, rolled down his window and said, “Give me the ticket.” I thought, “Huh?” I gave him the ticket, and he drove off with it.

I’m not going to take a chance on that again, but the episode certainly taught me to be respectful to government leaders and to those who uphold the law.

How do we respond to government?
(even if they make bad choices!)

October  12, 2018

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