The Citizen’s Duty — Part 4

Romans 13:4 is a continuation of verse 3 and states that the authority over us in the form of a ruler is a representative of God – a servant of God. He may not know God, and so, he may not be aware that he is God’s appointed, but he is still, officially, God’s choice and God’s representative. Here is verse 4:
[…] for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath upon the one who practices evil.
As God’s chosen, the leader is expected to promote the good of the people — to keep them safe, provide them with a peaceable life, and provide for their general welfare. A person who breaks the law can expect to be sought-out, apprehended, put on trial, and punished for his wrong-doing — “be afraid.”
The ruler “does not bear the sword for nothing, …” The sword is not just a symbol of power — it is power. Nor does the ruler wave it about with false threats. The sword speaks of the ultimate power of the ruler: the power to exact capital punishment. This statement implies that the government has the right to take the life of a person who has committed certain capital offences.
This would seem to contradict the commandment: “Thou shalt not kill” as we find in the King James Version of the Bible translation. The Hebrew word in this commandment actually ought to have been translated “murder.” It really reads: “Thou shalt not murder.” A soldier kills an enemy in protection of his homeland and his countryman — a criminal murders an innocent out of greed or hatred.
The last section of this verse states that the minister of God, or ruler, serves God by dispensing punishment on those who break the law. It would follow that if the ruler does not dispense proper punishment, then the ruler is not fulfilling his obligation to God.
We are not to take the ruler to task on this, however; that is God’s responsibility. The most we can do in America and, if we are citizens of other voting countries, is to vote him out of power when the day comes. We might also want to be sure that the one we vote into office is committed to following the responsibilities that we give him by putting him there in the first place: providing us with security, providing a peaceable life, and providing for our general welfare (and that doesn’t mean handing everything to us, turning us into people who can’t fend for themselves, becoming perpetually needy, complaining people who can’t live without welfare and can’t do anything on our own because we have lost all ambition).

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