Time for Resistance?
Amelia Monroe Carlson
On January 20, 2021, the United States of American will inaugurate a new president. Joe Biden will officially become the 46th president of the United States. For many Catholics, specifically those within the pro-life movement, it was a disappointing result. However, it does not change the fact that president-elect Joe Biden, a candidate who touted abortion and promised to make it even more available, will soon be president. A president-elect who is Catholic. Where does that leave the average American Catholic? It leads back to the Bible. It leads back to obedience.
St. Paul knew a thing or two about bad leaders. He had to escape a ruler intent on killing him by being lowered in a basket through a window, was beaten multiple times, stoned and left for dead, thrown in prison and shipwrecked. I would say Paul has earned his stripes to be able to instruct us on how to deal with government authorities with which we disagree. What would Paul tell us?
“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. Therefore, he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.” (Romans 13:1-2) He continues in that same passage by reminding us, “therefore one must be subject, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing.” (Romans 13: 5-6)
At the time Paul was writing Romans, Nero was the Roman emperor. Nero took an evil delight in persecuting Christians and treating them as anything other than human. He is well known for pouring oil on Christians and setting them on fire in order to use them as human torch lamps for his garden at night. Would Paul have commanded the Christians to obey such an evil dictator? Not in matters of the treatment and persecution of people. Does that mean Paul would have led Christians in a massive riot and protest to tear down buildings, break windows, and damage property while endangering the lives of others. Well now that would defeat the purpose of arguing that every life is valuable now wouldn’t it?
Romans 13 is written while insisting that all authority comes from God (vs. 1). We would do well to remember this during such a time that we face. No matter the outcome of any election, God either chose for that outcome or allowed the outcome. It did not take him by surprise, nor did it throw his plans off. It does not stop God from being God and it does not change truth. Romans 13 was also written with the assumption that civil authorities, for which God had placed in those positions, would govern according to the interests of everyone. (vs. 7) Paul knew all too well that many did not govern in this manner. Paul did not advocate for violence, refuse to recognize their authority, or advocate for the overthrow of evil leaders. Paul did two things that we can tell from scripture: he continued to preach the Gospel (even when it was prohibited) and he would flee to preserve his life when it was in danger. Paul’s life and teachings are a clear, but thin, line between obedience to civil authorities and obedience to God.
As Christians, we have an obligation and duty to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In doing that, we have a responsibility for our actions to line up with our words. We cannot say we believe in Christ and His teachings yet reject those teachings we do not like. We cannot speak hateful and evil things about those such as President-elect Biden and vice-president elect Kamala Harris if we are to obey Christ’s command to love your enemies (Matthew 5). We cannot damage buildings, verbally attack others on social media who disagree, or refuse to speak to those who disagree with us while simultaneously proclaiming to be a follower of Christ who taught to live in peace with one another when at all possible. (Matthew 5). We cannot throw stones at the sins of others such as Biden and Harris while refusing to look in the mirror and go to confession for the forgiveness of our own sins. What are we to do?
1. Go to Confession! – Repentance comes before healing. We cannot be healed spiritually, emotionally, individually or as a nation without repentance. (That includes repentance for those words you typed on social media that were not loving and kind) We must repent for those evil and hateful words we spoke against the opposing party and candidate. We must repent for the evil and hateful thoughts we had toward them. We must repent and ask forgiveness for when our lives, actions, and words pointed others more toward the world than they did to Christ.
2. Continue to preach the Truth – Just because a different administration is in power does not mean we do not speak the truth of the Gospel. Paul preached the Gospel while risking his life. The Gospel also includes more than just one issue. We must preach more than pro-life, anti-abortion, but we must preach Christ crucified and risen from the dead for our sins. We must preach repentance. We must preach humility and obedience. We must preach salvation. We must preach with more than just words, but with actions.
3. We must pray! – We must not only pray for those issues we deeply care about, such as an end to abortion. We must pray FOR Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, and all those appointed to the cabinet. We must pray FOR those in the Senate and House of Representatives. One of the best prayers I have seen for those in leadership comes from St. Clement of Rome. “Grant to them, Lord, health, peace, concord, and stability, so that they may exercise without offense the sovereignty that you have given them. Master, heavenly King of the ages, you give glory, honor, and power over the things of earth to the sons of men. Direct, Lord, their counsel, following what is pleasing and acceptable in your sight, so that by exercising with devotion and in peace and gentleness the power that you have given to them, they may find favor with you.”
4. We must engage in conversation, not protest – Let’s face it, where does protesting get us? Does it really make a difference? No. We must have respectful and healthy dialogues with those in authority. We must learn to listen and then to speak. We must listen to opposing thoughts and views if we expect others to listen to our views. We must learn to have a conversation again.
Let us remember those who are in authority are there with the permission of God. If God did not want them then they would not be there. We should be willing to allow God to use this administration, if it be in His will, to sift the Church. This country is long overdue for a good sifting by the Lord. May we be found faithful through it all.