In the clip above, Pastor Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Church in Dallas, cites Romans 13 as the pretext for the president to take out the leader of North Korea. Is what he declares really true? The simple answer is No! Especially not from that passage of scripture he uses.
Jeffress makes and egregious but common error in using Romans 13, for the purpose of giving moral credence to actions of war. He runs afoul in reading of the word of God with his mind already made up concerning what is being communicated, without a full understanding of the context or ignoring the context altogether.
Romans 13:1-4 Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good.
In the first place, Paul’s readers were facing persecution at the hands of the government of Rome. In spite of this threat, Paul reminds them that rebellion for being unjustly treated was out of the question. God called to be submissive to the laws and leadership of Rome, in so far as they did not inhibit their practice of faith in Jesus. If the law deemed following Jesus a crime, they were to suffer the penalty under Roman law for the sake of Christ (this can be seen in Romans 12:14-21).
Secondly Paul reminds them that governments are appointed and allowed by God, until Jesus returns, therefore even if the governments fall outside their ordained authority, becoming evil, God is allowing it for His purpose.
Thirdly Paul instructs them to be good citizens, which is a good testimony concerning Christ. Note thus far none of this deals with nations at war or pretext for going to war with another nation, which the Bible is not concerned with in the New Testament. Consider the foundation for understanding Romans 13.
Romans 12:14-21 (NKJV) Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Upon reading the above passage it ought to be clear Paul was calling his readers to understand, their Christ-like submission and actions of love, in the face of persecution, was how they were to overcome the evil and present Christ.
Lets look further at where Robert Jeffress error is found.
Romans 13:5-7 But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.
Note that Paul declares to the Christian “But if you do evil” (meaning Christian’s who rebel against the authority), you’re not fighting man but God. Again this does not mean we obey laws that say we cannot pray or follow Jesus. In those cases we obey the God and receive punishment prescribed by men. This we do for Christ’s sake. That being said, we cannot miss that the Romans 13 is not a pretext for just war against another country. Contrary to Jeffress use, the passage is a call for Christians to behave exactly how Jesus behaved, when He was faced with contrary governing authority. What did Jesus do? He laid down His life.
My question is why would the pastor feel the need to defend president Trump on this matter at all? When considering president Trumps own remarks especially the phrase “Fire and Fury”), he did not use language any more inflammatory, then the former three presidents concerning North Korean aggression.
It is for this reason that watching the pastor’s response grieves me all the more. Jeffress is supposed to be one of the presidents spiritual advisers. Would it not have been more prudent to council the president in exercising more self control in his tweeting, or refrain from being hooked into foolish arguments? One would think, but the pastor has already declared he is not looking for those qualities in his president.
“A Christian writer asked me (Jeffress), ‘Don’t you want the president to embody the Sermon on the Mount?'” he said, referring to Jesus’ famous sermon. “I said absolutely not.”
I realize that a president does not have to be Christian to be a good president. Nor should one’s Christianity (or lack of it) be the acid test for whether a Christian should vote for a president, but the pastor’s words are far more revealing than we might see at the surface. As the a spiritual adviser to the president, does that not entail concern for Donald Trump’s personal spiritual life and soul before the Holy God? Is it not clear to most discerning Christians in America, that the president is in dire need of resurrection life of Jesus Christ? The answer to these questions is yes! Donald Trump is in need of the Christ-life, as revealed in the Beatitudes, a lot more than we need him to protect our civil rights.
The president needs to understand his poverty of spirit, as opposed to his narcissistic pride. He needs to mourn over his sin before the Holy God, instead of believing he does not need forgiveness, but only to do better. The president needs to develop meekness or power under control, rather than spontaneously ejecting diatribes against his enemies. He needs to develop a hunger and thirst for true righteousness. He needs to desire mercy over judgment. He needs a desire to be pure in heart, devoid of his former life and its influence. Donald Trump, as our president of the most powerful nation on earth, needs to seek peace with all men as much as possible.
We followers of Jesus should desire to see all men embodied the qualities of Christ in the beatitudes. When we see these develop the men, we know it has happened only by the grace of God through Jesus Christ. This is what is most troubling about Robert Jeffress. Why would he not want the president to embody these principals?
Could it be that if the president did, Jeffress assets and agenda might not be as safe? My opinion is that many pastors (and Christians) see Donald Trump as the best means, at this time, to a more accommodating culture for themselves or the church. Sadly is appears we may be sucking up to a president, because it’s our best option. We ought to learn the lessons of history well though. When the church has come into union with those who are “friends” of Christianity, without those “friends” being truly Christians, we have never fared very well.
Interestingly, J.K. Rowling author of the Harry Potter series (books I detest), answered Robert Jeffress comments by quoting William Shakespeare…
“The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose. An evil soul producing holy witness is like a villian with a smiling cheek. A goodly apple rotten at heart. Oh what a goodly outside falsehood hath.
(William Shakespeare from “The Merchant of Venice”)
Although I am not a fan of her work or life style, Rowling’s quote cannot simply be dismissed because she falls outside the community of faith. She reveals a very real cynicism against the church. This cynicism is not unwarranted as it appears we often are silent or on the wrong side of important issues, when its expedient for us.
Please understand I am not writing as an indictment against Robert Jeffress Christianity, as it is clear that even the apostles could love Jesus and be on the wrong side of an argument, such as Peter in Galatians chapter 2. Yet we must remember that Paul rebuked Peter’s un-Christlike behavior, for its potential to carry others off into error. This is the reason I am grieved by Jeffress and other pastors apologetic fervor for the president, which does not come from the Spirit of God or love of the presidents soul. In my opinion, It arises from either fear, or a desire to curry favor with the president. In either case, it arises from seeking self interest. We will explore this in my next post.
Until then, remember… Stay close to Jesus can rejoice in your calling!!!
Philippians 1:27-29 Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God. For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me.