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Believers and Institutions

“Three statements well express the biblical teaching on the relationship of the believer to the institutions of society. ‘Do not be conformed to this age’ (Rom 12:2); ‘be subordinate to every fundamental social institutions’ (1Pet 2:13); ‘establish justice in the gate’ (Amos 5:15) There is a distinct tension among these imperatives. One is to submit, yet one is not to be conformed to the world with its institutions; and one has the additional positive duty to carry out justice with them. …

The writers of both Romans and 1 Peter assume for the sake of their argument that the government is good, that it is in accord with the will of God. They do not deal with the exceptions …Romans 13:1-7 and 1 Peter 2:13-17 do, in fact, imply a limit to government. The authority of God, under which government functions, provides the basis for judging specific acts of governments.

In considering that our actual duty is in a situation of ethical conflict, we must first isolate and evaluate the different duties that are involved. We then must try to determine which claims have more weight. … Ethicists have rightly refrained from the impossible and counterproductive task of providing a recipe for making decisions in all situations. Certain priorities can be identified, however.

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