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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions
The Small Catechism – part 252

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From the Word: And Moses hastened to bow his face toward the ground, and worshiped. (Exodus 34:8)

From the Confessions: The Small Catechism, Table of Duties

Certain passages of Scripture for various holy orders and positions, warning them about their duties and responsibilities:

What Citizens Owe to the Authorities

Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s (Matt 22:21). Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities, etc. Therefore, the requirement is to be submissive, not only because of the punishment, but also for conscience. For this reason, you also pay taxes, since they are ministers of God, devoted to this very duty. Give everyone their due: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor (Rom 13:1, 5–7). First of all then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, thanksgivings, be made for all people: for kings and all that are in a high position, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life in all godliness and dignity (1 Tim 2:1f). Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work (Titus 3:1). Be subject, for the Lord’s sake, to every human agency, whether to the king as highest authority, or to governors as sent by him in vengeance of evildoers, but in praise of welldoers (1 Pet. 2:13f).

Pulling It Together: See how Moses did not take matters into his own hands—perhaps as he had done when he emptied his hands of the tablets in a fit of exasperation and anger. He soon humbled himself under the Lord’s will, bowing in worship. How could he have done this if he was angry with his neighbor? This is why Paul admonishes to not let the sun set on our anger (Eph 4:26). We cannot worship God when we are angry with our neighbor, any more than Moses could.

At the end of the day, God must deal with our resentments and annoyances with others, let alone our anger when we let these irritations get out of hand. Vengeance is his domain, not ours (Deut 32:35). This extends beyond our neighbor on the block, to family, to church, and even to country. There are all sorts of reasons to be fed up with all kinds of people, but at the end of the day, we must bow to the Lord. His will be done.

Today’s portion from The Small Catechism deals with a controversial area of God’s will: subjection to the governing authorities. The Bible teaches us to be submissive to these servants of God—for the Lord’s sake. As far as it does not conflict with Christian conscience, with disobeying God’s will, we are to obey the civil government even if we do not share their opinions, like their orders, or even like them. For that is God’s will, as the apostles make clear.

Here is only one example. Is it inconvenient or disagreeable to avoid being around people during a pandemic? Of course. Are executive orders along those lines in conflict with my Christian conscience? Not as far as I can see. Yet, when I defy those whom God has told me to obey, my conscience is troubled because I have disobeyed the Lord. The only thing left to do is quickly bow my own obstinate head to the ground, and worship.  

Prayer: Your will be done, Lord. Amen.

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