Paul wrote the letter to the church in Rome encouraging them to be subject to authority; some time later the Roman government would execute him, according to ancient sources. Was Paul wrong in this teaching?

Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

Romans 13:7-10

In chapter 13, we receive instruction that all governing authority is appointed by God for the purpose of punishing wickedness and whoever does good will be praised rather than punished. When we read this, knowing that Jesus and Paul were both executed by appointed governing authority, we might feel some tension or disagreement with that idea. After all, do we really have to endanger our lives?

We may never encounter that question in actual practice, and God willing we will all live in peace and freedom to practice our faith openly. What we will invariably encounter are times when our duty of love makes us uncomfortable; we will owe someone respect or honor or taxes and feel the urge to withhold it.

Fulfill your outstanding debt of love and satisfy the requirements of the ultimate Authority, the Lord, but don’t neglect to fully apply that instruction. Sometimes love means doing things you don’t want to do, like paying taxes.

Ethan Kirl