This is my reply to Ed Blair of Lenoir, whose letter-to-the-editor appeared in the News-Topic on 12-3-16. Ed opens a nice can of worms. So, let’s take those worms and go fishing.
Ed was responding to my own letter, entitled “Who’s Afraid of Donald Trump?” about God’s sovereignty, and our obligation according to Romans 13 to submit to those God puts in authority. Ed asks – and rightly so – what about our forefathers who rebelled against King George? What about Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who plotted against Adolf Hitler? What about Martin Luther King, Jr., who preached nonviolent civil disobedience? And what about Republicans, who – in Ed’s mind – fought against President Obama for eight long years?
So, does God want us to submit to tyrants and evil leaders as well as to good? Or can there be exceptions to Romans 13?
Regarding our forefathers: There were people in Jesus’ day that wanted to throw off Roman rule, just as the colonists wanted to be free of King George. Yet, Jesus never preached rebellion – never even hinted at it. In His mind, there was more at stake than political freedom – spiritual freedom. There was a kingdom far greater than the kingdom of Israel – the Kingdom of Heaven. So, if Jesus had spoken directly to our forefathers, I think He would have told them to focus on a higher prize and wait on God – their freedom would eventually come. But Americans don’t like to wait, for anything, which is part of our problem.
Regarding Dietrich Bonhoeffer, there are two ways to overcome evil: We can focus on the evil and try to overcome it directly; or, we can focus on good and let THAT be our contribution to God’s deliverance. Evil cannot overcome good, just as darkness cannot overcome light. So, if Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his fellow conspirators had left the removal of Hitler up to God, they might have lived to see God’s deliverance.
Regarding Martin Luther King, Jr, I like the approach of William Wilberforce better: He changed the laws of slavery in Great Britain in the early 1800s by going through legal channels, not with civil disobedience – or, as I call it, throwing a civil temper tantrum. It took twenty years to accomplish; but the Brits have enjoyed better race relations in their country than we have in ours. Civil disobedience is a form of tyranny: you hold people captive with your disruptive behavior until they give you what you want. It reminds me of the kid in the grocery store that does the same thing to his parent. That’s no way to behave.
As to Republicans: He said, she said. Democrats say that Republicans didn’t cooperate with the president, Republicans say the president didn’t cooperate with them. Communication is a two-way street.
I’ll tell you what I see in all four of Ed’s examples – impatience. Instead of waiting on God, these people took matters into their own hands. Those who wait, eventually get what they want. Those who don’t, end up paying a higher price for something of far less value. As Mendelssohn says in his oratorio Elijah, “O rest in the Lord, wait patiently for Him, And He shall give thee thy heart’s desires.”