In the wake of the President’s recent “Fire and fury” comments there has been a wave of voices coming from a dozen different directions concerning the tense situation with North Korea. Hopefully this will lend a little bit of biblical perspective to the discussion.
- Romans 13 does not apply to this situation
Robert Jeffress, controversial Texas pastor and unofficial Spiritual advisor to the president released a statement saying God has given America authority to “take out” Kim Jong-un. Jeffress cited Romans 13 which says God gives rulers the power of the sword and calls them, “Servants of God, avengers who carry out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.” There’s one problem with citing this text in reference to possible war with North Korea. It is completely irrelevant. Romans 13 is referring the relationship between Christian citizens and a sovereign state, or at the very most, a sovereign state and it’s vassal territories (but even that is a stretch). It is commanding Christians to live in submission to an evil government because rulers receive their authority from God, even evil ones.
Now, of course there is the, “but Kim Jung Un is really, really bad argument,” and I’m in agreement. Kim Jung Un is evil and may be legitimately insane, one of his first acts after ascending to power was to have his uncle fed to wild dogs because Un believed that his uncle was trying to usurp his throne. This guys is bad. But before we begin to make exceptions for North Korea, let’s look at the regime that The Apostle Paul was dealing with in Romans. A few years before Romans was written, all Jews and Christian were exiled from Rome under false pretenses. A few years later, the Emperor Nero embarked on a program of wholesale persecution of Christians after falsely accusing them of starting an enormous fire that destroyed much of the City of Rome, a fire that most historians believe Nero actually set. Christians were fed to lions, crucified by the thousand, and used as human torches to light the city of Rome at night. This was around the same time Paul wrote the book of Titus, which also admonishes Christians to submit to their rulers as they would God’s authority. Romans 13 IS NOT a mandate for regime change, if anything it’s a warning against taking out Kim Jung Un, even as evil as he is, unless it becomes absolutely necessary.
2. America is not God’s Chosen Nation
We’re just not. I love America. I am blessed to be an American, it has afforded me freedoms that the vast majority of people who have ever walked the earth couldn’t even have dreamed of. America is a nation that is blessed with a largely Christianized heritage. But we are not God’s chosen people. We’re just not. That status was afforded to one nation (Israel), during one period in history (The Old Testament period), for one purpose (to bring about Jesus the Messiah). And we cannot look at passages like 1 Samuel 15:1-3 and 2 Chronicles 7:14 and apply them to 21st Century America. They don’t apply to us in the same way.
3. It Doesn’t Usually End well for the Instrument of the Lord
In his statement, Jeffress seems to come very close to conjuring up Old Testament imagery of God executing judgement on one nation through another nation. He’s right that in the Old Testament God often executed His judgement by using one nation to take out another nation, however I would encourage us to think long and hard before signing up for this responsibility. If you look a little bit deeper, you begin to realize that things never seemed to end well for those nations and people that God used to execute His judgement.
Babylon is a great example. Several Old Testament books refer to Babylon as an agent of God’s judgement on His people for their sin. Ezekiel 21 refers to “The sword of the King of Babylon” as God’s chosen instrument of judgement and Habakkuk tells us that God raised them up to execute His judgement. In Isaiah we see God Himself mustering them for battle…right before nine chapters which in shocking detail outline Babylon’s destruction at the hands of God for their sin against His people. David experienced the same thing. David was mighty warrior for God, defending His people and destroying their enemies, but all this violence takes its toll. In the end, David is disqualified from building the temple and his family is left in ruins. He was a man after God’s own heart, a man who was obedient to God, but sometimes being used by God can mean being used up by God. Ask the Babylonians, King David, or the Apostles.
I’m not saying that war with North Korea is never a viable option, perhaps North Korea will strike first and force us to defend ourselves. Unfortunately, we are dealing with an evil regime that wants to destroy us, there may come a time when “fire and fury” prove to be necessary. I’m just saying we ought to think long and hard before we rush headlong into a position that in the past has usually led to people and nations being used up, spit out, laid waste to.