Paul VanderKlay has done his weekly Sunday School class on Romans 13. He offers a fairly balanced approach – at least noting that there are times to disobey the governing authority that is the state.
My comment in the comment section:
A few thoughts:
It is correct to note that the “government” in the United States is the Constitution. Unfortunately, the only part of the Constitution that still seems to be respected is the period of election for the various national offices – and even this idea of “election” is now questioned by far more than half of the country, and not for no cause.
My understanding is that the Greek word translated as “governing authorities” can mean authorities at any level, for example, for the family, for the Church, and for the state. Hence, some people apply Paul’s words to mean we may (even must) defy governing authorities if they step out of their proper role – for example, when the state tells us how to raise our children, or when the state tells us if we can go to church on Sunday.
Finally, I have often wondered why we only look at this passage as Paul writing to the subjects / citizens. He is at least equally writing to the governing authorities – setting the limits and boundaries about how these authorities should act. In the case of the state, when they punish wrongdoers, they are acting according to Paul’s teaching. When the state punishes right-doers (as is many times the case, even today and even in the United States), the state is acting against Paul’s teaching.