July 1, 2018 – Citizens with Conscience
Preacher: Rev. Scott Strickman
Romans 12:14-13:7 (ESV)
12:14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
13:1 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. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 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, 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. 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 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.”
In situations of difficulty and disagreement, Jesus has us act out of an inner integrity (v5 “for the sake of conscience”), which applies to all situations – including citizenship.
I) A conscience that is subject to authority
- 13:1 “let every person be subject to the governing authorities”
- 13:6-7 giving to Caesar what is Caesar’s (Matt 22) and to God what is God’s
II) A conscience that is obedient to Christ
- 13:1 “for there is no authority except from God”
- 13:4 “for he is God’s servant for your good”
III) A conscience that is overcome by good
- 12:21 “do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good”
Questions for Reflection
- To the degree that you are familiar with Jesus’ teachings and the life he invites people to live, what aspects of this life apply or direct his followers in hard relational situations? Think of various relationships (romantic, family, roommates, co-workers, boss/employee, government/citizens, international, etc.). Do the principles he gives apply to all situations?
- Human beings have trouble with authority. What are some legitimate reasons for this? What are some problematic issues? How can you discern courage and independence from selfishness and rebellion?
- What can you do when your conscience isn’t clear in a situation where you need to be subject to some authority who you think is in the wrong? What resources do you have, or what steps can you take, to act wisely in that situation?
- What do you do with a troubled conscience? How do you move forward when you are conflicted, confused, or feel guilty?
- How can subjection to people with positions of authority or influence be, for you, an expression of obedience to Christ? How does faith in Christ shape how you engage in human relationships? How can this be a help when you are having difficulties with a particular human or institution?
- What guidelines help Christians stand against injustice? Think about some principles that could direct political thinking, activism, citizenship.
- What temptations are there to give into evil (to adopt the methodology of your opponents)? Where do you find yourself thinking about compromise and being overcome by evil?
- Can evil really be overcome by good? Is it naïve? What foundations are there for an intelligent approach to persisting in doing good even if the world is not rewarding it or fighting against it?
- How does the gospel story (Jesus willingly suffering in love to bring mercy and grace to sinners) shape how you live in the world? What echoes of that attitude or action can you bring into the world with you?
Prayer of Confession
Almighty God, you are just and wise, and we seek to gratefully and humbly submit to your service. We confess we struggle with subjection. Our hearts are filled with pride and self-serving motives. We often dishonor others, even those with authority and responsibility, because at root we want to be in charge of our own lives. Our unhealthy views of authority also express themselves in cowardly compliance. Forgive the ways we justify our rebellion. Renew our minds so with discernment, courage and love, we would live before all with a good conscience; and as far as it depends on us, live at peace with all. May we be overcome by your goodness. Amen.