When I was in college I worked for a man who was a devout believer in Jesus Christ, whom I respected very much. During my employment with him, we had a situation that arose about sharing our faith in a specific arena in which it was not welcome. His appointed leadership chose to go the route that we would not verbally share our faith in this specific domain. In all my vast wisdom as a 19 year old college sophomore I vehemently disagreed with their call. I did not make a scene or outright disobey them. Rather, I didn’t enforce their decision, simply allowing things to carry on, as if naturally. My boss sat me down at the end of the day and had a very firm conversation with me. This is a nice way of saying he chewed me out in the name of the LORD. He told me that I was out of line and in sin. I quickly replied with a passage of Scripture (Acts 4.20) to support my case which I had recently memorized. After all, what was he going to do, argue with GOD? He opted not to get into a theological debate with me (now looking back, that was lucky for me) but rather showing me that by not submitting to his leadership, I was sinning against the LORD.
I have thought about this instance for years now as he still has an impact on me as well as countless others that I know. Up until this past week I have always believed or made myself believe (which ever you want to insert here) that I was in the right. I was the one that made the right call. My decision was the godly one. Isn’t it interesting how the LORD won’t let go of some things. He’s not over bearing but just so patient and gracious with us. I spent some time studying 1 Peter 2 this week and it speaks of this issue of authority. I’ve known for some time, maybe since before that summer that GOD institutes all authority figures (Rom 13.1, 2 Peter 2.13-14), the good and the bad. This truth still seems strange to me at times. For instance, on my recent trip to Sudan I saw a GOD-instituted government that was responsible for the deaths of millions of innocent people. Yet still under GOD’s sovereign control, millions of others fled the country into other parts of the world with the gospel firmly planted in their hearts and fresh on their lips. Ah yes, GOD is in the heavens and does all that He pleases (Psalm 115.3). So maybe we don’t know everything. And we can’t see everything. (Isaiah 55.8-9) This is why we must simply trust in Him – He knows everything. Sometimes He institutes unjust authority figures into our lives in order to perfect and complete us (James 1.2-4), or to sanctify us. Sometimes He institutes these cruel authority figures simply to get His glory in other ways. One thing is for sure – He is going to get His glory. And when we stand in opposition to His appointed authority figures, we are standing in opposition to Him, and Him getting His glory. I firmly believe this is true. This is true from children disobeying their parents to Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s involvement in the assassination attempts on Hitler. I believe that our aversion to authority is not bound up in the will of GOD but in our will. I can’t speak for Bonhoeffer but I can speak for that arrogant 19 year old previously mentioned. As I have searched my heart regarding this issue, I can see several ways in which I was about my own will rather than GOD’s. I wanted to be right. I selfishly wanted to see revival and miracles like in the book of Acts. I wanted a story to take back home to tell. Then when pressed by an authority figure, I got defensive and proud, and misused Scripture to support my rebellion.
I am indeed rebellious in nature, I have often wanted to extricate authority as if a weighty yoke tied upon my back. This may be related to my American individualism but probably more so connected to my sinful humanity. The truth is it’s humanly impossible to be completely submissive to authority. This is not an excuse, but rather an opportunity to run to GOD for help. Submission to authority is a supernatural activity that cannot be done outside of Christ. It is now apparent what enables me to submit to authority. It’s not what I used to think – a worthy authority figure to submit to. I have had plenty of worthy authority figures that were godly and loving toward me, and yet I still found myself rebelling against them at times. What enables me to submit to authority, whether liberating or oppressive is by looking past them to the Ultimate Authority – GOD, who lovingly calls me to submit and serve. That’s hard truth at times. This may or may not be for my benefit, but I can rest assure in that He will get glory from it. Now we find out if that’s what we’re really living for.