A young student was reading the Bible one day. He read the words the apostle Paul wrote to the Christians who lived in Rome: "Obey the government, for God is the one who put it there" (Romans 13:1).
"That's easy for you to say," the student said, as if Paul were standing in the room, "but the government where I live is cruel and corrupt."
Suddenly, a robed and bearded figure of Paul appeared beside him. "Young friend," said Paul, "I wrote those words to Christians living under a Roman government that persecuted and often killed Christians."
"But," the student blurted out after a moment of amazed silence, "you say that if we refuse to obey people in authority, we are refusing to obey God." The shadowy figure nodded.
The student continued, "But you don't understand my language arts teacher isn't even a Christian!"
The figure smiled. "The Roman emperors were not Christians, either, but even they were placed in power by God."
Frustration showed on the young student's face. "But you say to give respect and honor to whom it is due! Well, a lot of the people who are in charge of me-like my teachers and my school bus driver don't deserve too much respect."
"The Word of God doesn't say to give respect to those you think deserve it," Paul said. "It says to give respect and honor to whom it is due and respect is due those who are in authority over you: police, teachers, even school bus drivers!"
"OK," the student said with a sigh. "I guess you're right. If the authorities are established by God, like the Bible says, I guess I should respect them. Right?"
The student looked up to see that the figure of the apostle Paul had disappeared. Then the youth looked back at the pages of the Bible. The apostle's words were still there, though they seemed much clearer than before.
REFLECT: Does it affect your understanding of Romans 13:1-7 to know that Paul, who wrote those words, was often imprisoned and beaten (and eventually executed) by various religious and civil authorities? Reread that passage and see if knowing that makes a difference.
Do you respect the people who are in authority over you (government officials, church leaders, teachers, school bus drivers)? Do you think that showing respect is always easy? Why or why not? Do you think you should show respect even if it's not easy? Why or why not?
PRAY: "God, help me to obey you. Help me to show respect to people who have authority over me, even when it's not easy. Please help me especially to show respect to..."