It is important to see the text of Romans 13:1-7 in its context, chapters 12-13. It is also important not to polarize these two chapters into either statism or pietism (hyper-pacifism).
- Romans 13:1-7 is sometimes presented as a carte blanche for the State. No questioning of the State's actions is permitted under this perspective. Anarchists are met with the rhetorical question, "What about Romans 13?" End of discussion. No further analysis.
- On the other hand, Romans 12 (and the Sermon on the Mount) are often absolutized into an extreme pietism, a dysfunctional passivity which refuses to confront evil with the enthusiasm which motivates some supporters of the State to brandish the violence of the State against enemies of the State (foreign enemies or domestic criminals).
Romans 13 says we should pay our taxes, but not that the act of taxation is ethical. Those who argue that taxation is ethical cannot draw a line using clear texts of Scripture: 5%? 10%? 50% 99%? These are tough public policy questions.
Romans 12 says we are not to resist evil. But what would you do if someone were about to rape your sister? These are tough personal policy questions.
Thus, neither chapter should be treated as an easy answer to tough questions, and neither pacifistic anarchists nor vengeful statists should be dismissed out of hand by the mere citation of either chapter.
Romans 13:1-7 is surrounded by exhortations to follow Jesus and obey His commands.
Romans 13:1:7 tells us how to follow Christ -- specifically in our relations with "the State."