the tough one

the tough one
Photo by Bernard Hermant / Unsplash


I'm from west Texas. We stand up strong. We're independent and nobody can tell us what to do.

It's too far away? Heck no. I'll drive my gas guzzling pickup truck 6.5 hours just to see my friend for an afternoon. It's too greasy? Absolutely not. Adding deep-fried pork chitlins to your barbecue? That's called garnish. Cardiac infarction? Ischemia? Arterial occlusion? Never met them, but they sound like nice folks! Are they new in town? I'll invite them over for the highly concentrated sugar solution that doubles as hummingbird feed and the base for Texan sweet tea. (I won't even mention how physically dangerous most of our friendly pastimes are! Most of them involve flying through the air at high velocities or objects that really, really hot.)

Go back even further in our history and you'll see that the Texas revolution began in 1835 when the Texans refused to submit to the new Mexican dictatorship. The Mexican government came to to reclaim the cannon they'd loaned to the Texas colonists. However, under the original, iconic (and now infamous and often misapplied) "COME AND TAKE IT" flag, the Texas army started its first battle in its war for independence.

To this day, most Texans I know consider Texas to be a proud, Christian nation–albeit temporarily under the rule of an oppressive despotic nation for the last 177 years. We're just biding our time until the rest of the nation destabilizes enough to allow Texas to regain its independence and enter the global market with its 9th or 10th largest economy in the world (beaten only by Calif*rnia amongst all other US states).

Did I mention that Texas doesn't have an income tax?

so what's wrong with this picture?

To all my non-Texan friends: everything above is entirely true. We submit to no one. That's why it's so hard for me to read these Bible verses:

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. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 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. 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. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.
This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 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.
– Romans 13:1-7

Yes, Paul wrote that when emperor Nero had just taken the throne. Although Nero's persecution of Christians was small in comparison to the local religious opposition, he wasn't exactly what we'd call a saint.

Surely that was just a one-off. We can just ignore the rest of these, can't we?

Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.
– Hebrews 13:17
Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.
– 1 Peter 2:13-14
Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.
– Titus 3:1-2

Okay, I'll follow the law, but I don't have to support the leadership...

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.
– 1 Timothy 2:1-2
Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.
–  1 Peter 2:17

But surely, we're at least better than California, right?

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves
– Philippians  2:3
... All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,
“God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.”
– 1 Peter 5:5
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
– Ephesians 5:21

so what now?

I still love Texas, and I'll return to live there the first chance I get. I just used my home state as an example because only a Texan can pick on other Texans!

One of the spiritual disciplines is submission. I don't like that word, and it's antithetical to the cultural values I grew up in. Unfortunately, it's not simply a suggestion put forward by Jesus: it's the example he set for us and the command given to us by God.

celebration of discipline - tate
a life observed

In the next post, we'll explore what it really means to "take up your cross" (as explained beautifully by John Howard Yoder in his world-renowned book, The Politics of Jesus).

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