Wright’s introductory comments about Romans 13:1-7 are so suggestive, I want to take two days to ponder them. I begin today by quoting the passage and then offering an introductory point by Wright that I think we simply have to consider:
Rom. 13:1 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.
Rom. 13:6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give to everyone what you owe: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.
Here’s the point from Wright:
“Theological fashions change, and pressure points move from one exegetical location to another. A previous generation found Romans 9 intolerable, first reading into that chapter a doctrine of absolute predestination to salvation or damnation, and then angrily rejecting it. Others have taken a similar view of Rom 1:18-32, hating the very idea of ‘wrath’ as a theologically barbarous concept. Now, after a century in which totalitarian governments have devastated continents, decimated nations, and dehumanized millions of their subjects, it is scarcely surprising that the critical searchlight has swung around and come to rest on the little paragraph now before us. As though by some scapegoating process, these seven verses have been struck out of the canon, vilified, and blamed for untold miseries. They have enabled whol generations of critics to combine their sociopolitical instincts and prejudices with their status as professional exegetes, and to leap-frog over Paul onto what looks like high moral ground. This is always a deeply satisfying pastime” (716).
He asks: “If enemies sow wheat in a field of wheat, is the wheat farmer to be blamed?”