You have just been summoned into your supervisor’s office. What do you feel? Are you at peace, confident that your boss is about to speak something good into your day? Or is your blood pressure shooting through the roof as you fear being in trouble? Or even worse, do you dread that your boss is going to ask you to do something yet again that will make her life easier but your life more miserable?
As sinners, we have such a tenuous relationship with authority. On the one hand, we wouldn’t want to live in a world where there was no authority. How could we sleep at night if the bad guys knew there was no punishment for theft? But on the other hand, we have seen far too often people in positions of authority abuse that power for their own selfish gain. We live with this tension in our homes, at school, at work, and even in our communities. As followers of Christ, how should we view those in authority over us?
The Scriptures are quite clear, and quite challenging regarding this issue. The apostle Paul, no stranger to the abuse of authority in his own life, wrote these words to the church in Rome, themselves no stranger to the abusive authority of the Roman government: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities” (Romans 13.1). In the seven verses that follow, Scripture teaches us that the governing authorities are God’s servant for our good, that we should submit to them as unto the Lord, that we should give them honor and respect, and that we face the wrath of God if we resist their authority.
These truths force us to wrestle with questions like “what about those in authority who abuse their power?” or “what about those in authority who try to suppress the gospel?”
But before we can wrestle with those questions, we must embrace the simple truths of Romans 13.1-7. And as we do, we have to look in the mirror and ask ourselves these four questions: (1) Can I praise God for all of the forms of authority in my life and receive them as gracious gifts of God? (2) Do I intentionally and regularly pray for those in authority over me as commanded in 1 Timothy 2? (3) Do I submit to the authorities God has placed in my life and show them honor and respect? (4) Do I exercise the authority God has given to me as the servant of God for the good of those over whom I have authority, or do I use my authority for my own selfish gain?
After we wrestle with these questions, we can move on to more pressing questions like, “Why does our sin nature so quickly want to rebel against authority if in fact authority is God’s gracious gift to us?”
For a more complete discussion on the teachings of Romans 13.1-7 and on God’s gracious gift of authority, listen to or watch the full sermon “Authority: God’s Servant for Our Good.”