What makes one a good person? The world will supply us with ideas on how to achieve this. There are self-help books and motivational speakers that supposedly tell us how to achieve. We do not need to read those books or listen to those speakers because Paul gives us the secret in Romans 13.
The first secret to being a good person is to submit to our governing authorities because all governing authorities have been established by God (1). We are to submit whether are leader is elected or seized power in a coup. We are to submit whether our leader is a brilliant strategist or a lying fool. All governments have been established by God and how can we rebel against something God has established (2). Government has been established to punish evil doers (3-5).
Is all rebellion against government wrong? No, there are times when God uses man to overthrow a government and He establishes a new government. But people should be sure that a rebellion has the backing of God, otherwise they are fighting against God. Should we submit to a government that requires us to do things contrary to the will of God? No, ultimately we submit to God first.
But we shouldn’t submit to government out of fear of punishment, but our conscience should have us submit (5). So often we obey laws due to fear of punishment. Many people will travel over the speed limit, but not enough to get in trouble for it. We’re doing just enough to avoid the punishment. But our conscience should have us obey completely. We often treat our relationship with God in a similar way. We avoid sin because we do not want to be punished for it or lose a possible blessing for obeying. But our conscience (our heart) should have us obey even if we were guaranteed to same outcome had we not obeyed.
We need to give the government what they are owed, our taxes, honor and respect (6-7). Sometimes it is hard to respect our leaders, especially when they have done a poor job or a disgraceful deed. We do not need to approve of the actions or political decisions, but we need to give them the honor and respect that they deserve.
The second secret to being a good person is to love you neighbors. Paul explains that we owe a debt of love to others (8). Just like we do with our mortgages, we need to continue making payments of love to others. If we show love to others, we will be obeying half of the Ten Commandments (9-10). Jesus said that the second greatest command is to love others (Matt 22:37-40). He also said that others will know we are Christians by our love (John 13:34-35). If we want to lead others to Christ and be better at overcoming sin, we should develop and nurture our ability to love others.
The third and final secret Paul reveals to us is to love God and walk close to Him. Paul calls the Christians in Rome to be prepared for Christ’s return. Paul is not urging them to be saved since the readers are already Christians. Paul is urging the Christians to walk closer with God, to remain attached to the true Vine (John 15:1-17). He calls them to wake from their spiritual slumber (11). Many Christians in this age are in a spiritual slumber. They aren’t prepared for Christ’s return. They have taken the precious gift of salvation, accepted it and buried it. When Christ returns, he will rebuke those Christians for not utilizing the time and gifts given them (Matt 25:14-30).
So here are the secrets again:
- Submit to governing authorities.
- Love others as yourself.
- Love God with all your heart.
Others will certainly see a very good man/woman in you if you are able to do these things.