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If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. 2 Cor 5:17

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Romans 13:1

“Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities”


We had recently arrived in Portugal and I was trying to find my way about and understand the culture.  One of the first things that I ran into as a difficulty was in the speed limits.  It did not take long to realise that people in Portugal generally did not follow speed limits.  I decided to be “culturally relevant” and not follow them either.  However, it was not to long into our stay that God convicted me with the message that I should “submit myself to the governing authorities.”  This I found very difficult.  In the normal run of things it was understandable, but then there was that long straight road out to the motor way at 40KMH with the traffic pilling up behind and once in a while beeping horns.  The worst however was with road works were there were signs for 10KMH.  It took ages to creep through with the workers giving you that look of what’s wrong with you?  The speedometer does not even go that low!


After some months of this kind of driving we had to go up to the north of the country to visit some friends from Spain.  As we went up we found a new road that had just been completed.  The road works signs had not been removed and so I had to go at 50KMH which I found very frustrating.  Eventually it began to dawn on me that something else was going on in my hear other than the more obvious issue of arriving on time.  Here I was steaming away driving down this road, but in fact I was the only one who was worried about it.  The road cut a considerable time off our journey and as such we were going to arrive early, so going faster would just make us arrive earlier still.  No one else was held up by my slowness because the road was straight and wide and they could easily overtake.  Eva was really enjoying the countryside and going slower enabled her to enjoy it even more.  No, the only person who was upset was me.  So, why was I upset?  I began to realise that it was an issue of speed itself.  I like going at the edge, driving fast.  It has nothing to do with the logistics of the journey, it is purely an issue of speed.  The only way out for me was that I had to surrender that desire to God.  I had to acknowledge before him that I had this desire, and apologise for being so upset with not being able to go fast, while looking to him to give grace to drive without it.  After that it became a lot easier to travel slowly.  I began to realise that by and large the Portuguese are not in a hurry, the only ones who were bent out of shape by my slowness were of the same type as me – those who liked to go fast.  It was not an issue about journey time for them for it is not that sort of culture.


It was not long after that, that I happened to be reading Romans 13:1 again.  It was then that I was struck by the fact that the passage says to submit to the authorities.  The implication of this being to do what the authorities want.  It was clear to me by now that in Portugal, though obviously not in other countries, these traffic signs were not there as indications of how fast one should travel but more like signs indicating a warning, and an encouragement to slow down.  So having dealt with the problem of speed that was in my heart, God could then give me the freedom to live within the freedom that the law gave.  It was not long after this that he gave me a beautiful opportunity to get a feel for what was right.  I was off on a journey up to Spain and as we were driving out of the city a police car pulled out in front of us.  We followed them for a considerable distance and by doing so were able to get a feel for what the governing authorities considered appropriate.  It was interesting that it was the same feel as I had already developed, one of not being in a hurry.


CULTURE AND LAW