One doesn’t have to exert much effort to look around our country and notice it’s laden with conflict and turmoil. Political battles are simmering every which way. Violence and drug abuse are on the rise. Students in classrooms cause more disruptions by the day. And everyone’s arguing about what to do about it all.
At first glance, a person might not consider that a general lack of respect for authority is behind much of this. But let’s pause and consider a few things.
Why is it that students are acting up more in the classroom? Is it because their parents aren’t training them with authority in the home and they consequently don’t respect authorities at school? And are teachers and principals being stripped of more and more authority by districts who are pushing “student autonomy” in the classrooms, afraid of parent retaliation?
Why is it that homelessness and violence seem to be rising? Is it because there’s been a move to take away authority from police officers because a few of them have done poorly at their jobs? Is it because there’s been too much of a push for “compassion” that ends up enabling poor choices?
Why is it that there’s been such a push for abortion without limits? Is it because women chafe at the idea of an authority figure trying to take away their “rights” over their bodies?
It is true that authority is easily abused, and people suffer as a result. Look at any Communist country run by a power-hungry dictator insistent on ruling every aspect of his citizens’ lives. This is authority turned authoritarian, and we should be wary of that kind of power. And typically, most Americans, since the days of King George III, have been suspicious of too much government authority because they’ve seen the negative results of control.
However, God shows us that wise authority is necessary, and that when rightly exercised, it can bring peace and security.
God as Ultimate Authority
To anchor our knowledge of the right kind of authority, we have to look at the Author of all things. God establishes his right to authority in Genesis 1:1 where it says, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” As Creator, God gets to set the rules for how his creation works. He also gets to be in charge of the created, which are we, the people.
We know this innately. Romans 1:20 says, “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”
Yet, people continue to fight against this power and try to contrive their own ways for how the world works. They don’t like being told there is a natural order to things because God established it that way. They would rather be their own authority in their lives and not have anyone tell them what to do or how to think. People reject authority because they’re rejecting the ultimate Authority, which is God himself. Yet when we start rejecting the creation order, everything else starts falling apart as a result.
Authority Brings Peace and Trust
When we know our authority figures have our best in mind, we trust their decisions. When leadership proves they’re trustworthy with their decisions, we follow and listen to them. And this brings great peace. Children will be content when they know mom and dad are taking care of the family. Communities have harmony when they believe their leadership is working on their behalf.
Our own inner souls have peace when we are walking in line with the design that our Creator has given to us. It’s when we start rebelling against this design and trusting our own authority that we start losing peace. We can easily convince ourselves that we’re happy. But deep down inside, we know we’re not. We’re not trusting the true Authority that he knows what’s best for our lives. We tell ourselves he’s wrong. The Bible can’t be right because we don’t like what’s it’s saying.
But when we surrender our fighting souls to the God of universe who created us and loves us more than we can imagine, we are flooded with peace. We can trust this Authority. He knows what’s he’s doing—he is after all, Immortal and All-Wise.
Authority Gives Order and Security
Furthermore, God extended authority to people on earth to give an order and security to his creation. We elect people to various roles of leadership, be that in the schools, the communities, states, or country so that our lives can be stabilized by order. Police officers and military members protect us from violence and attacks. Mayors, governors, and presidents take on the mantle of leadership to guide our cities, states, and country to improvement.
This is by God’s design. First Peter 2:13-14 shows us that when it says, “Be subject to the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.” God has allowed humans to take on certain levels of authority to represent his own authority—and by respecting human leaders, we are ultimately respecting God.
But when we start teaching our kids not to respect authority—by first allowing disrespect in our own homes—we start showing them that order doesn’t matter. And when order starts to not matter, security also begins to disintegrate. Authority is in place to keep us safe and secure. But when we start to fight against it, that safety and security are shattered.
There is a time and place for civil disobedience when a government starts to become tyrannical. And there can be all kinds of debates about at what point that starts to happen.
But if we’re not addressing those cases, we should generally live by the principle of 1 Peter 3:8 – “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” We should submit with humility to the wise authorities God has placed in our lives. We should commit to training our children to trust and respect authority figures (starting with their parents). And we should ultimately seek God as our final Authority, asking him to help us see his wisdom in all areas of our lives.