Right Responses to Authority

As Christians, we’re pretty good at spotting the sins we hear talked about alot in church: failing in our devotion to God, lusting, getting angry, and that sort of thing. All of these things need to be addressed and fought with the Spirit’s power. However, I don’t think we give enough attention as Christians to more foundational sinful postures like anti-authoritarianism. We focus a great deal on the moment-by-moment sins but almost forget that a mindset that, though devoted to Christ, is anti-authority is greatly dishonoring to God. We ought to realize this and to fight it with the same devotion that we fight other, more noticeable sins.

That said, here are a few ways we can respect authority as Christians.

Respect your elders–This can have a double meaning, which I realized as I wrote it. Actually, I like both meanings. We live in an age of ageism. That is, we preference youth and disdain old age. This is unbiblical and disrespectful. We ought to look up to the elderly among us. Though they were not perfect, they contributed in many ways to a strong, safe, and moral America. There was much good in them. We should respect the elderly and not mock or belittle them.

In addition, we should respect our church elders (if your church doesn’t have elders, it should). We should not seek to make their lives difficult or to make some sort of wicked game in which we constantly question them and snipe at them. That is not a helpful practice and I would go farther than this: such an attitude is sinful. I see this some in my seminary context and it is disappointing. Again, you do not need to think that your elders are perfect. You can critically evaluate their decisions. But you should do with caution and in moderation.

Respect traditional societal mores–Not all of them, obviously, but in things like dress, demeanor, and style you should adopt a posture of general conformity. No, you didn’t read me wrong. I actually suggested that you conform. I know you’ve been taught that that is the peak of heinous thought, but you’ve been taught a lie. It’s good to conform to many things. As a Christian, don’t try to change the world’s dress code or some stupid thing like that. Instead, adopt a posture of general respect. You can be original without going to extremes to show that you are. Don’t conform to anti-conformity. Instead, respect your culture and participate in it as a positive, not a negative presence.

Respect the government and law–If you’ve paid attention to entertainment culture of the past few decades, you’ve noticed that it is often anti-government and anti-law. That’s because lots of entertainment is made by immature people. We should note this as Christians and rebel against such an attitude. We should speak well of our government and the law which together bring great order and prevention to society. Many among us thumb their noses at the government just because it has power. We ought not to do so. We should, per Romans 13, respect our officials and the work they do. The government isn’t all corrupt; it’s not stupid; voting isn’t pointless; and we shouldn’t act on such principles. They’re lazy and not well thought out and they don’t reflect a godly attitude towards our earthly officials.

So there you go. I’ll leave it to you to figure out a bunch more on your own. Remember, the point is not to compose a book of situational guidelines, but to seek to glorify God by respecting the authority that exists in the earth He has made.

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2 responses to “Right Responses to Authority

  1. Jed

    Does this mean that your position has changed on conformity to traditional societal norms since August when you argued that earings and body art are okay? Obviously it’s okay if it has but perhaps it would be instructive to go back and think about some of your previous posts about dress, contextualization, etc. in light of this recent series.

  2. Dad

    The ESV has the English Word “Tradition(s)” 14 times in the NT. Most of these references are in the Gospels and are showing how traditions stand against God. 3 times, I think, Paul urges his readers to follow the traditions given to them by the Apostles and company. So there are clearly human/world/religioius traditions and then their are godly ones.

    Further, even our submission to authories set over us by God, whether parents or government, is not to be just out of traditions, for us believers, but is to be for God. So we need to move from ‘this is what my culture taught me’ to ‘this is what God is saying in his Word.’

    If your readership is mostly your age, not counting your parents and myself, than I really don’t see a lot of Biblical traditions to encourage people to follow from our culture. That is not the starting point. And Paul’s admonition to submit and to pray for leaders was not based upon whether the leaders were corrupt, etc. God has placed all of these people over us, and so because of God, and the traditions taught by Him in His Word, do we submit to authorities and respect authorities.

    May I warn you of ‘thin ice’ in the direction that you have headed. Even in the church we are not to be ‘not rocking the boat’ “just because!” Each generation in the church must also wrestle wtih what is going on and what does the Word teach. For one thing is certain, what there will be Wolves in sheeps clothing in every generation. And holding a religious tradtition ‘just because’ is empty and sinful.

    Lastly, if I may chime in on Jed’s comments. Christians are like the world in may ways: we don’t really care if our world-view and our life is really consist within itself (and with the Word). For example, how many believers claim to be Calvinist because they hold to “eternal security” while rejecting all other points that actually give the foundation for security? We must move thoroughly through our life/thoughts and line all of it up with the word and with each other. A huge task! Hum, am I talking about sanctification?

    Well enough words for this morning.

    May His Word be a light to your path, and mine too.

    Al (not Owen’s Dad, nor that “Al” – just a believer from Maine.)

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