This short chapter presents a trio of dualities related to living out our faith:
1. I AM A CITIZEN OF TWO KINGDOMS (v.1-7). As a believer I am a citizen of the Kingdom of God, but I am also a citizen of an earthly “kingdom”, the United States of America. I love my country, but compared to the eternity I will spend in the Kingdom of God, I will only be an American for a short time. While I am here I worship and serve the King of kings, but I also submit myself to earthly governing authorities. These authorities (law enforcement, federal authorities, etc.) have been delegated authority by God, and in fact are “ministers of God” (v.1, 6). To live in defiance of the authorities is to defy God Himself. I am obligated to obey the laws of my country unless doing so would violate the laws of God. In the words of Christian band Big Tent Revival, “If loving God was a crime, I’d be an outlaw!”
2. I LIVE BY TWO LAWS (v.8-10). While I submit to the laws of the United States, the state of Tennessee, and local ordinances, at all times I live by a higher law that supersedes any law made by man. It is the law of love: I am to love my neighbor as myself (v.9). My “neighbor” is anyone God brings across my path who has a need I can meet. The law of love requires much more than just having feelings of love for others. It means taking action to meet physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. It means being willing to be interrupted and inconvenienced. It requires that I get involved and become an instrument of God’s mercy. (If everyone in the world lived by the law of love, no other laws would be needed!)
3. I LIVE IN TWO TIMES (v.11-14). I live according to an earthly calendar that tells me this is the year 2013. The calendar of history tells me this is America’s 237th year. My watch says it is 5:00 a.m. But as a citizen of the Kingdom of God I am more interested in the timetable of God’s sovereign plan. The prevailing philosophies of Paul’s day asserted that history is cyclical — history repeats itself endlessly. But with a biblical worldview, Paul taught that history is linear — all of human history is speeding forward toward one climactic event, the Second Coming of Jesus. This passage teaches that “the day is at hand” — Jesus will soon return, and so I should focus on living a godly life in Christ and penetrating the darkness with the light of the gospel.
Verse 11 is a wake-up call, jolting us out of our bleary-eyed, sleepy faith and into action. Let’s wake up and make a difference for Jesus today. Are you with me?