I have a real-life, flesh-and-blood question for my conservative evangelical friends who believe that it is a Christian’s duty to “honor authority.”
In 1956, Fulgencia Batista was Cuba’s head of state and Fidel Castro was a revolutionary. Castro and Che Guevara and their gangs would show up in villages, say to the people, “Do as we say or we’ll kill you,” and do as they pleased.
Castro was, we would agree, a rebel against God, a murderer, and a thief.
Three years later, Batista was history and Castro was the head of state. Before long, he had a representative at the United Nations. And he was still sending his agents—now they had official uniforms and a chain of command that ran all the way to the UN—to the villages to tell the people, “Do as we say or we’ll kill you,” and to do as they pleased.
Same people, same actions, same victims. Same rebel against God. But now Castro is the power that be, ordained of God, right?
As such, according to Romans 13, Castro “hold[s] no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. … He is God’s servant to do [Cuban Christians] good. … He does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. … [He is God’s servant], who give[s his] full time to governing.” Not “would be if he followed God’s law”: is.
Let’s leave aside his closing of churches and otherwise stifling of dissent and concentrate only on the issue of taxation as defined in Romans 13. (Yes, I’m being snarky. Neither “taxes” nor “revenue” is defined, so they can include anything.)
If he can take away whatever tangible property he chooses, to say nothing of liberty and life, in 1959 as God’s ordained agent, why could he not do it in 1956 as God’s future ordained agent?
Why would his victory over Batista not have vindicated any prediction (prophecy?) he might have made that he would become leader?
Would it have been wrong for a Christian who realized that God was going to give Cuba into Castro’s hands—to ordain him as his servant—to have joined up with him before the march into Havana?
If it was wrong to join him before the march on Havana, why is it OK to take a job in his government now?
If it was right to forcibly oppose Castro when he was a revolutionary, why is it wrong to forcibly oppose him now?
And if it was wrong for Castro to do as he chose with people’s property in 1956, why is it OK in 1959?
If it’s not OK for Castro to have free rein over people’s property in 1959, why not?
I would suggest that anyone who gives Romans 13 precedence over the prohibition against stealing in Exodus 20:15 and the statement in Psalm 2 that the kings of the earth are unalterably opposed to the Lord and his Messiah is morally paralyzed in the face of the Castros (and Maos—Mao’s story differs from Castro’s only in the details) of this world. Only when Christians refuse to carry out the immoral decrees of the powers that be, however ordained of God they might be, will the church be able to wage war “against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph 6:12).