Transforming the Powers

Transforming the Powers

Recently a friend and I were discussing the interpretations of the Romans 13…..  I have been thinking more about this chapter in the past few days and I am putting some of my thoughts to paper…[i]

I was thinking about how some Christians believe the governments of this world and this age is ruled by fallen, although not completely fallen, Powers.  A Scripture selection, Romans 13 appears to indicate these powers are ordered, (not ordained, in my view), by God, and that every Christian should be subordinate to those Powers excepting when those Powers’ commands cross the lines of suffering love spoken of in the same text, just before, as our radical submission to God first.  It is stated that Good is to overcome Evil by this radical submission to God first, exhibited by our outward suffering love to all mankind created in God’s image.

The majority opinion of Christians by name post Constantine have even believed submission to these Powers include going to war for the State and killing others, even other Christians, as we prioritize our allegiance to these fallen Powers over our allegiance to God, because we have been taught this is what this passage means and that we are submitting to God when we submit to everything the Powers tell us to do, including killing….  This, most think, is God’s will…..  However, in the same passage, we are exhorted to Love our neighbors…. (Note that I am reading both Romans 12 AND Romans 13 together, in context, not isolating Romans 13 from all of Scripture and isolating this passage from the words of Jesus who said to Love your enemies, etc.)

How can this be?

Obviously, I do not agree with the majority opinion of the interpretation of Romans 13, nor do a substantial number of not mainstream individuals such as John Howard Yoder, one, among many others…  Also, there are many Peace churches, and Peace organizations linked in the Circles of Peace link below that also have another opinion.  The majority opinion does not read Romans 13 in view of the culture to whom it was written, where Christians, slaves, Jewish people, and occupied peoples were never required to serve in the military to begin with.  the military was for Roman citizens only, and was actually viewed as a privilege for the privileged few…..

What then, are we doing, if we interpret our submission to governing Powers in view of the whole of Romans 12 and Romans 13, let alone all of Romans, let alone all of the Old and New Testament, including the words of Jesus?

Could it be that our suffering submission, (and that of the early Christians), to God first, and our love for one another, and our love for our enemies IS the Good that defeats Evil spoke of just before in Romans 12?  The early Pre Constantinian Christians must have believed this….

Could it be that the vision of Jesus in His commands, such as love your enemy, were actually meant to transform these same Powers, therefore helping place ALL things, (including the Powers, once created good, but now fallen to some extent more, and some extend less), under His feet, even those fallen Powers, and those Powers who may be able to be transformed?

Throughout history we have had many opportunities to try this preemptive tactic, that of suffering love, of loving our enemies, but have generally speaking, failed miserably….  I believe we will always fail when we, as Christians, read Romans 13 to mean that we can defeat Evil by doing Evil ourselves, and killing it….

That is not how Jesus did it….  He died in complete submission to His Father to defeat these Powers….  Perhaps with and idea in mind to even transform any of the Powers He could.  The principal Power once took him to a high Mountain, offering Him this world, if He would be in submission to that Power…. Jesus chose not to do that, but to worship God alone….  From then on, those who understand, understand that the Kingdom of God is coming, one not of this world…  (Come soon, Lord Jesus)

That is how Jesus did it, here and in other recorded instances, and probably in so many more instances that books of the earth, that essays such as this, could not contain them….

Grace and Peace,

John Cooper

[i] Note: I do not normally do extensive quotations in my writings of this type because I believe they break the train of thought.  I am not writing in a scholarly genre, and I am aware of that fact.  I know how to use footnotes, but normally refrain from doing so.  My writings assume those reading them are fundamentally founded in the topics I write about,  For instance, references to Scripture assume the reader has read the passages already and know what I am referring to…  If not, you may wish to read the passages… I welcome discussion and other viewpoints.  Feel free to respond to anything I write.  Let’s talk!  Let’s think!

About jcooperforpeace
Spiritual Director, Spirituality of Inner Peace

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