Why We Should Always Teach Romans 12 With Romans 13 [Guest Post]

Morning Friends,

I am in France and Germany for 10 days doing some touring and some teaching. I’ve never been to this part of the world and am enjoying all the touristy things as well as the wonderful food and people. If you think of me, pray that all is safe.

For this week’s blog, I invited a colleague of mine, Brad Hambrick, to share how Romans 12 must be seen in context with Romans 13. Brad is the Pastor of counseling at The Summit Church in Durham, North Carolina and serves as an adjunct professor at Southeastern Theological Seminary. For those who have been abused, we see some powerful truths gleaned from these passages that we can use to walk in CORE strength as well as implement tough consequences when needed.


It is easy for us to think that the Bible was written as theological-thought-units. We often read the gospel of Mark as a series of stories instead of one big story, or Romans as a series of devotional thoughts instead of a unified letter. Sometimes this challenge results in theological error (which should not be minimized), but other times it can even result in seemingly faith-filled choices that put lives at risk.

Without using hyperbole, viewing Romans 12 without Romans 13 is an example of the latter. The end of Romans 12 is a very memorable passage on how to deal with interpersonal conflict.

Romans 12:14-21: “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

We read this and are challenged to be exceedingly gracious. We are hopeful that our kindness would be used by God to awaken the person who is sinning against us, and help them see the wrongness of their actions. But it often begs the question, “Is this all we can do? Does there come a point where God allows us to be more assertive in response to the abusive sin of others?” If stop with Romans 12, then it feels like the Christian response to abuse is passivity; as if self-protection is selfish or that legal protections were expressions of bitterness and revenge.

This is when it is vital to realize Paul was writing a letter and not a daily devotional. Look at what Paul’s next words were. There was only a dip of his writing quill between Romans 12:21 and Romans 13:1.

Romans 13:1-7, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.”

Paul’s next words after “be exceedingly gracious” were, “God has placed the civil authorities over our lives to be an expressions of his hand or protection.”

So what does this mean? It means a battered wife can get a restraining order without violating Romans 12. It means it is not unforgiving or punitive for Christians to call Child Protective Services if they suspect a child is being harmed or neglected.

My concern is that most Christians are more familiar with Romans 12 when it comes to conflict, and miss the application of Romans 13 when conflict transitions from a personal offense to a legal offense. We read Romans 12 and think of harsh interpersonal conflict. We read Romans 13 and think about obeying speed limits and paying our taxes.

In order to represent God’s word well, we need to teach with balance from both Romans 12 and Romans 13 (tweet that).

  • Romans 12 is God’s instruction for the best way to (a) redeem the aggressive sinner and (b) protect the person being harmed. Fighting back (physically or emotionally) escalates an encounter and may confuse who is at fault. Wisely obeying Romans 12 helps curtail the intensity of an unhealthy encounter, and makes it clear who needs to change.
  • Romans 13 is God’s civil instruction to ensure that Romans 12 does not allow abuse to go unpunished, and to keep his people from being unprotected (see a similar principle in Matthew 7:1-6).

If you want to dig deeper into the balanced application of Romans 12 and 13 for chronically broken relationships, I would recommend the following books. They do not exegete these passages, but they offer a more in-depth, biblical perspective on how to respond when interpersonal conflicts move from moderate to severe.

Friends, do you agree with what Brad Hambrick Discussed?

CLICK HERE for more of his abused related articles.


  1. Survivor on May 4, 2016 at 7:39 am

    This is amazing!!!! And so timely!!! I have been saying for some time that leaving my abusive H does not make him a victim–rather, it releases me from being a victim. It gives both of us the opportunity to become healthy. It is probably the most loving thing I can do for him!!!! Why then is everybody so bent on pitying him and talking to me about reconciliation??????!!!!!! To me, it is unbelievable how backwards people get things!!!!!! How do they not understand that it is excruciatingly painful for a woman to have to leave the man she married?? And to have to explain to the children what is going on? Its like they think that because she left that it was what she WANTED to do and she is being mean/spiteful/vindictive…….

    • MGrace on May 4, 2016 at 6:47 pm

      I’m there Survivor! I am there!

    • Leslie Vernick on May 5, 2016 at 1:42 am

      You are so right. Maybe sharing this article with your church leadership may help them to press pause and think a bit more clearly.

  2. Lisa on May 4, 2016 at 7:58 am

    And also we should always teach all scripture in context of all scripture. Works every time.
    A very good word indeed. Thanks for sharing it.

    • Leslie Vernick on May 5, 2016 at 1:42 am

      I agree.

  3. Laura on May 4, 2016 at 8:12 am

    Being almost 6 years past my divorce and many more working through the struggles within the abusive relationship I still often felt uncertain of my decisions.Today I am so blessed to be seeing signs from God that help me remove the stains of guilt that came along with difficult conditions and final choices. I read Brad’s writing and was awestruck by the fact that not keeping the scripture in context can frame very different pictures. Brad’s clarifications on Roman’s 12 and 13 created for me a release from the ‘ for better or worse’ guilt because I sometimes still felt I should have clung to the destuctive marriage. I appreciate how God has timed things in my growth for me to better understand abuse. And now to allow a releasing from all the pressures I see I still held due to false guilt is so inspiring.

    Thank you Leslie for sharing Brad’s work and the ‘big story’, that has contributed to me seeing my own ‘CORE’ strength when I was still sometimes feeling condemnation about whether God was really guiding my moves or it was just my confusion on whose will was working.

    My prayers are with you that all is safe for you at this time! Happy travels and ministry.

    God Bless,

    • Leslie Vernick on May 5, 2016 at 1:42 am

      You’re welcome Laura. I’m out of the country right now but am glad you’re enjoying and benefiting from Brad’s wisdom.

  4. Ruth on May 4, 2016 at 8:52 am

    I’ve never been physically abused. But I imagine some Christian wives who are in physical danger, have received more devastating counsel like the writer is countering. She hears ‘turn the other cheek’. She hears ‘perhaps thru her quiet, submissive behavior’ her abuser might get saved. What a heavy yoke to lay on the shoulders of a woman who’s barely holding on.
    It’s good to see church leadership teaching with the intent of supporting the victim.
    I appreciate the book recommendations. I already have Leslie’s book. I will look into the others. And that leads my mind to another topic – wow, do you have to be CAREFUL what books you read in about marriage. Several years ago, an old friend recommended to me a ‘Christian’ book on marriage. I read it. It was wacko. A big load of crap. The wife simply exists to be a cheerleader, resourceful with money, non-demanding or confronting. If you want him to be kind or even as civil as you’d treat your cashier at the gas station, you’ve got to be his red hot lover. This book promised if you give him more and more and COMPLETELY dismiss your hurt then a switch will flip – he’ll change from a monster into a prince.
    I know that book was on the extreme end of the continuum. Most Christian literature isn’t that errant. Still, I question how good most Christian teaching is for even non-abusive marriages. Maybe, I’m becoming jaded.
    I am so thankful for the day I had Christian radio on in my car and Focus on the Family had Leslie on as the speaker. I sat in the driveway and finished listening to the program – amazed that someone FINALLY understood what my life was like! I googled her name and been so encouraged by reading here. I got her book; it was validating.
    Anyway, all of that rambling was my attempt to say Thank you for the support this site provides.

  5. Aleea on May 4, 2016 at 6:51 pm

    “Friends, do you agree with what Brad Hambrick discussed?” YES! Thank you Brad! Excellent work.

    Re: “. . . God has placed the civil authorities over our lives to be an expressions of his hand or protection.” “. . . . a battered wife can get a restraining order without violating Romans 12.” “It means it is not unforgiving or punitive for Christians to call Child Protective Services if they suspect a child is being harmed or neglected.” . . . . . I totally agree and these are g-r-e-a-t points!!! Brad’s words ring true to me. . . But I am a 21st century Christian and a product of my current culture. . . .Disinterested historical & agenda-free, exegetical research —Does it exist? I really don’t know. So many scholars, with high views of Scripture, who given their lives for Christ, experts in the languages and cultures, with access to manuscripts and archaeology not even extant today have said all kinds of divergent things for two thousand years. All I know is that far too many have wasted entire lives with “incorrect” interpretations. —I don’t know how we really tell, especially when equally qualified scholars disagree. I have never been able to come to terms with the divergences. Romans thirteen really is a test case for New Testament interpretation/ textual criticism from Irenaeus-of-Lyon forward. Obedience to the government (—even that of Nero!) is inculcated in Romans thirteen.

    Anyways, what kept going through my mind as I read this post: How do we better balance love with our vast Christian liberty? How can I pray more intelligently and wisely for each person here. How do we broaden our understanding of what it means to relate to one another in God’s love? —I have no idea.

    Thank you Brad, it looks like you have a whole array of interesting books: —Vulnerability; —Burnout: Resting in God’s Fairness; —God’s Attributes; et.al.

  6. Sara on May 5, 2016 at 7:29 am

    Leslie, do you have an itinerary of where you will be and what you will be speaking on at each location during your time in Germany and France? This may be timely for my husband to attend as he is there as well, and my heart is on the brink of collapse.

    • Martha Gerber on May 5, 2016 at 12:12 pm

      Yes. The newsletter has dates of speaking event. Please email jael@leslievernick.com

    • Leslie Vernick on May 10, 2016 at 3:03 am

      I spoke at a private event that was not open to the public. Sorry. But all my speaking engagements in US are always on my newsletter.

  7. Ann L on May 9, 2016 at 3:24 pm

    This caught my eye, probably because it’s my situation: “when interpersonal conflicts move from moderate to severe.”

    Sometimes these dividing lines are so hard to find. In my case, the blaming, deceit, re-directing, minimizing has been so chronic that I thought I had serious mental issues with memory and perhaps paranoia. And yet the delivery was always reasonable My spouse is such a fluid liar that I don’t think he even knows when he’d lying anymore. The other day he lied about whose change was in the car. Why? Why would someone do that?

    And how in the world do you go to an “authority” to say you are leaving now because the scales of their authority has finally fallen from your own eyes and that now you see the truth, and the truth is setting you free. So free that, although your heart and soul still fear that you are wrong, you’re gonna do it. You’re turning your back on them and their teaching and your marriage, and anyone and everyone who says that you are wrong and that there is nothing they can say.

    All those years of soft, soft lies add up to severe but the fact that no single act is ever “severe” just adds to the confusion.

    • Robin on May 9, 2016 at 8:17 pm

      I remember asking such questions, Anne. Why in the world would they argue over change in the car, or dishes in the sink , or something a child said innocently. I say ‘be free little birdie’. God never intended for us to have to tolerate such confusion constantly. I’ve been separated for 2 years, and everyday I think about chaos and confusion that doesn’t wreck my life anymore. I’ll be praying you find your answers!!!

    • S. on May 9, 2016 at 8:48 pm

      Thank you, Ann, this is very well put. It is hard to tell whether my husband is lying or just has a memory problem, but then I think, why doesn’t he have this memory problem about work, or anything else except when he wants to justify his behavior to me? It is so confusing. And it is like you said, so fluid that I am not even sure he knows that he is lying. And he also lies about things that I have no idea why he would lie about them.

      And your last line–“All those years of soft, soft lies add up to severe but the fact that no single act is ever “severe” just adds to the confusion”–is very true.

      I will pray for clarity for both of us.

      • sunflower on May 9, 2016 at 10:20 pm

        The teaching has stuck with me that if you feel confused, you are being manipulated. Yes!!! That explains everything.

        Have you read the book “Wolves and Sheep’s Clothing?” I just heard of it and have been told it deals with manipulation. I like Robin’s comment about being free. That really is the answer for all of us, but for various reasons we can get out of our situations.

        • Leslie Vernick on May 10, 2016 at 2:47 am

          Sunflower, you may not be able to get out of your situation right at this moment, but if you want to get out of it you must begin to think, plan, prepare to get out of it at sometime. The worst thing you could do is stay a passive, helpless, victim. Even if it takes you five years to educate yourself or get job skills or save money, you are doing SOMETHING towards getting out or not being a repeat victim.

          • Ann L on May 10, 2016 at 5:26 am

            Sunflower, a big YES to Leslie’s comment, “even if it takes five years.”

          • Sunflower on May 19, 2016 at 11:02 pm

            I’m in this for life. There is no getting out. One of us with have to die. My family wants peace at all costs. I keep the peace at great cost.

        • Ann L on May 10, 2016 at 8:47 am

          This is also really helpful for identifying what’s going on: :”Unsafe Relationships”

          • Sunflower on May 19, 2016 at 11:00 pm

            Thank you for your supportive responses.

    • Leslie Vernick on May 10, 2016 at 2:50 am

      Confusion is not of God so that’s a good signs that your goal is clarity and truth. “Why would he lie about these things?” Do not get caught in trying to find the why. There many be various reasons but none of them justify or excuse deceit. I think the ultimate authority is God and you have to answer to him, not other people for the choices you make. Start there.

  8. sunflower on May 9, 2016 at 10:21 pm

    can’t get out of our situations-

    • Robin on May 9, 2016 at 11:12 pm

      Sunshine, I understand that abusers twist their words and make us crazy. But think about it. Now that we see it for what it is- let’s not stay confused. If he doesn’t do it at work or church, it’s us that has to see the truth and begin to walk in it, rather than stay confused. He wants us confused. But we are victors. We know what they are up too- certainly not for our good. So stand up to him and call a lie a lie and a mis truth a mis truth. No longer be deceived!!!!!!!!

      • Robin on May 9, 2016 at 11:15 pm

        One of the things that really helped me– was to see I no longer needed to get in the middle of his mess. His desire is to entangle us, to keep us crazy. If we refuse to be entangled and make him own it, oh what freedom!!

        • Sunflower on May 19, 2016 at 11:07 pm

          Ahh, yes. Stay away from his psychological mess. It is easy to do because it doesn’t make any sense. Yet, I must engage when he is driving a car, takes me to someplace we don’t agree upon and I have no way to get to safety. The grilling begins until I agree with his point and accept full blame for his tirade. I must play the game then to survive. Last week I just out of a moving vehicle to get away from him. He doesn’t respect my “No.”

          • Laura Di on May 20, 2016 at 8:14 am

            Hi Sunflower, my prayers are with you for safety and peace.

            As you know there is a lot of valuable supportive information in this thread to say “yes” to working upon. I pray that Leslie’s posted suggestions for a strong start are already being undertaken. And for reinforcement I think one other yes that God would love to see is to begin working upon respecting your own, “NO”!

            Jumping out of a moving car was something I almost did too. Please protect yourself from falling prey to dangerous situation. As Robin states below……it’s a RED FLAG and also a STOP SIGN!

          • Sunflower on May 23, 2016 at 12:46 pm

            Laura, Thanks for your prayers and advise. After I jumped out of the truck and ran away. I had 911 ready to dial on the phone and he continued to follow me, I yelled at him to get away. Then my daughter drove by as we were on the sidewalk. (We all traveling to a family event.) I got in the car with her, told my husband I was implementing the 30 day separation that we had prepared as a contract with our his therapist.

            We got through the day. He went to a Hotel. Then my daughter called and asked me not to go through with the contract. She said my actions were childish and could I just make peace with Dad and do this at another time. So…I eat crow….take the husband back and live in patience and on guard. Reading, praying, thinking and exercising to keep the stress level down. He has scheduled an intensive 3 days of sessions with his therapist. Such is life in my world. Thanks again.

  9. Robin on May 19, 2016 at 11:44 pm

    Sunflower, I once jumped out of a vehicle also and endangered my life. But that was the RED FLAG that opened my eyes and said, it’s time to stop this nonsense and get help!!!! I saw where you said your family wants peace at any price. What does Shnflower want? This isn’t a decision that the family needs to make. This is a decision for you. You can take responsibility for yourself just as I did- and leave and live a life w/o abuse. So what is keeping you there? What lie are you believing??

    • Sunflower on May 23, 2016 at 12:36 pm

      Robin, I hold onto the vow I made before God which stated, “in sickness and health”. Unfortunately, I got sickness. I feel it is my responsibility to endure it. He gets lots of counseling/therapy. He is now switched to Lundy’s “Mr. Sensitive”, he has had so much therapy that he turns it on me.

      Our adult children want us to be together. They do not want a broken home and believe all the conservative Christian values I worked so hard to teach them. I am to endure suffering, submit to male headship, wait for God’s healing and remember this life is just temporary. Our real home is in heaven and we know this world is full of sin.

      So, what would I do if it was up to me. I’d be gone sister, gone, gone, gone!

      • Robin on May 23, 2016 at 2:31 pm

        Sunshine, I do believe you think you are doing the right thing. But I would also say, friend you are in denial. There is no where in Scripture it says to moms stay in an abusive relationship to please your children. Do you understand what you are teaching them by staying in a Destructive relationship. Most abusers who attend counseling do it to use against their spouse. My children stood up against me when I left- of course they did, that were still stuck in the cycle. It takes a lot of self respect and desire to listen to God and not those around us– to take the leap away from continual Destructive living. I’m sorry, but I think you really need to take the blinders off. God wants each of us to live lives in His freedom he died for- and when we remove ourselves from a destructive place- God can then with us out of the way, speak louder to the spouse and help him to acknowledge his abuse. I found in my last days with spouse- to stay would be enabling his abuse. You are not the only one who honors their commitment to marriage. Sometimes honoring our vows means loving him enough to get out of the way, so he can heal.

        • sunflower on May 23, 2016 at 9:17 pm

          Robin, Thanks for the tough love. It is welcomed.

        • Laura Di on May 24, 2016 at 3:46 pm

          Very powerful words Robin, tough love is a blessing.

          I lived through similar conditions to what Sunflower mentioned. I saw just where and how my children were caught in a sick allegiance to their father. And guess what? Now the child who protested the most vocally has lived through tough lessons, starting with going along with parental alienation that caused us a long estrangement. Losing my children temporarily and putting the situation in God’s hand was hard for me because letting go of a relationship with them was so unnatural. I prayed to God constantly that the children would eventually recognize the abuse for what it was, and now my daughter at 30 years old and 7 years past objecting to her mon’s needs has seen the light. Because I wasn’t around to be pushed and prodded any longer my ex needed a new target, and guess who got the position? My daughter is now sadly privvy to what I experienced. The good news is my daughter has since grown in her ability for seeing unhealthy relationships. She is now very careful, operating with full of awareness in circumstances where abusiveness is concerned, She has weeded out relationships that put her in jeopardy of mistreatment. Not accepting to live in a situation similar to her mom’s nightmare is a powerful statement. She has learned to set the same boundaries that took me years to erect. And sadly but for safety her father is kept at a distance now, a measure for her own good, my own good and our reward to live with the respect. Just as God has always provided done, He has given us the freedom to live with the peace He’s offered us for the taking! Again…tough love is a blessing!

          • Robin on May 24, 2016 at 9:24 pm

            Laura di-thanks for sharing. It must have been tough walking away from your children. I know that feeling- my standing up to my abusive husband caused 3 of my 4 children to act out according to the cycle they were stuck in. They too were unhealthily attached to their father who was s.p./narc. My trust has been totally in the Lord to heal this family, one person at a time so it seemed. It’s a hard knock to accept, but I was submitted to changing the direction our family was headed. I took the first step and had to wait on Gods timing. Just in the last few weeks one of those 3 children have reached out to me and asked for a renewed relationship with me. I’m always glad to hear and pray for other sisters warrior stories!!!!!!!!!

          • Leslie Vernick on May 28, 2016 at 8:54 am

            Such good news Robin. So happy for this new turn with one of your children.

          • Daisy on May 29, 2016 at 7:43 am

            I left my destructive marriage 3 years ago when I had to call upon DCF to get help for my then 12 year old daughter that was self destructing. My husband refused to let me get her help. All hell
            Broke loose when I made that decision, But I regained my personhood. My daughter is still estranged from me and my oldest son is brainwashed but cordial. My youngest (10) is the only one who has contact with me. My h did the whole parental alienation thing and almost completely distriyed me with his gas lighting and psychological/spiritual Abuse. I am much happier now that I live in the truth. One of the saddest things my husband took from
            Me was the ability to not second guess myself. I still do that a lot three years out. I am in the process of divorce and feel no guilt because I’ve given him 3 years to reconcile to no avail. He doesn’t budge a centimeter; worse than Pharoah who wouldn’t let the slaves go. I have never regretted calling DCF even though the outcome is not what I wanted. I believe that call that day was my POW rescue from God almighty who does not stand for injustice. He had provided for me I. Every way even though I was a displaced homemaker of 22 years. It can be done. I am a testament to that. I am finally a human again.

  10. Laura Di on May 24, 2016 at 11:56 pm

    Thank you, Robin for the prayers you offer to help others. I am especially blessed by the bond of sisterhood found in supporting each other on this site.

    The following scripture is from James 5:16 and is one a group of women warriors I know from a recovery group I attend have used to support each other during our plights. We have committed it to memory in order to put it to good use. We all need to be reinforcement for each other in the area of seeking and submitting to God’s will. I think, at times, hard knocks are heavenly sent as great motivators for change. I am happy to hear about your reconnection with your child. May God Bless the journey you’re on.

    New International Version
    Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

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