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When the Evangelical Lutheran Church in American, my own denomination, declared itself a “sanctuary denomination”, nearly every article featured multiple commenting on how a decision to welcome immigrants and proactively support immigration reform was a violation of Romans 13:1. The verse was thrown down like a gauntlet at coffee hours and in Bible studies. The argument seems to be that Paul renders dozens of verses about welcoming the stranger and caring for those away from their homeland moot with a few sentences about order and authority written to fellow Christians whom he had not yet met.
In history, Romans 13 was used by Martin Luther to support kings and princes in overthrowing peasant rebellions. Loyalist preachers in the American Revolution used the text to try to convince their parishioners that God expected, nay commanded, their continued faithfulness to the crown. In the 1850s, the Fugitive Slave Act demanded that escaped enslaved people were to be returned to their masters, even if they had made it to free states. Those upholding this Act indicated that compliance with such a law was in line with Romans 13:1 and that helping enslaved persons to escape was in direct violation of the Bible.
Shakespeare - Lines - Merchant - Venice
All of this serves to remind me of Shakespeare’s lines from The Merchant of Venice:
“The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.
Apple - Rotten - Heart
A goodly apple rotten at the heart.
O, what a goodly outside falsehood hath!”
Time - Root - Paul - Sentences - Romans
We could speculate for a long time as to the root of Paul’s sentences in Romans 13. It’s not like the present Roman government (Nero) at the time of his writing was kind to Christians or to Jews. The verses just prior in chapter 12 are reminders that the Way of Christ is a action-based life of doing good for others, being welcomed by all kinds of people, and refusing...
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