In this section of Romans, Paul is writing to the church on how to live in light of the Gospel. An important part of living like a Christian is submitting to authorities and loving others.
How do we do this? Well, let’s look at Jesus. During His ministry Rome was in power and the Pharisees continually accused and tried to trap Jesus by way of Rome’s governing authority. They asked Jesus if he should pay taxes (Mark 12:17) and they even accused Jesus as trying to replace Caesar as the ruler (Mark 15:2), which was punishable by death.
Paul is reminding followers of Christ that they are to submit to the authority of the government in the land that they are in as God placed them there. We can do this because we have seen our savior do this.
In the present political climate, this may be hard to follow. I, for one, would rather have Jesus as President, but that isn’t the case. The truth is that God places people in power and we are to submit. Do we submit if the government is disobedient to God? Well we see in the Bible instances where followers of God rightly disobeyed their authorities; for example, the Israelites leaving Egypt (Exodus 1:1) or when Peter went against the Sadducees and proclaimed, “We must obey God rather than human beings!” ( Acts 5:29). We also see governments fall and God purposely has set evil rulers as a means of trial or judgement (2 Chronicles 25:20).
Our default is submission. We are to live as Christ and He submitted His entire life to this world. So, let’s continue to seek God and pray for our leaders, especially in this 2016 election.
Lastly, the question we must ask is how are we to live? Paul tells us we live knowing that Christ will return. We put on the “armor of light” — we put on Jesus Christ — and we love others. This is what it means to be a Christian.