If authority is loud and active — used unfairly and without mercy ever chance there is for it to exert itself — it will be a horrible monster and burden to the people.
But if authority is usually quiet and patient, fair and merciful — revealing itself when truly necessary — it can be a source of peace and a comfort to the people.
No wonder we have different reactions depending on our personal experience of how those in authority have either benefited us personally or opposed us personally.
It isn’t hard to understand why people all over the world who hate another group for who they are, what they do, what they believe, or how they are different — that given the opportunity and the authority, they will likely wield authority against that group they are opposed to. When authority is wielded from places like hatred, fear and selfish motives, it causes pain and suffering for one group for the unfair benefit of another.
So it seems that wars and history have taught us that authority in the hands of men and women must be somehow kept in check, right?
But has warring nation against nation, and tribe against tribe, and man against man ever actually been the source of authority being wielded once and for all fairly, justly and mercifully?
There is a beautiful precept about Authority that I’m learning from the life and words of Jesus Christ.
He promises us a Kingdom of Heaven “on Earth as it is in heaven” (not just an evangelical hell insurance ticket to “someday get into heaven”) — and He doesn’t go to war against earthly authorities in order to take it by force the way they do. In fact, His victory came though what they would have understood as His defeat, His torturous death on a cross, His burial in a tomb. And even if they don’t believe that he arose bodily to life (as promised and as we know to be true) — the world cannot deny that the spirit of His victory has lived way beyond the defeat of those particular authorities in His people who continue walking in The Way.
If ever there was a God, or a Man (or as we believe He was both) — wouldn’t we want the ultimate authority to be in the hands of a servant who willingly gives up his own life for all people — rather than in the hands of any man who would choose favorites and oppress some for the benefit of others?
A stupid man might say that they would rather be the chosen favorite benefiting while others suffered, but what happens if your spot as favorite is taken by another?
And an even more stupid man might say “give me the authority myself” thinking that he would use it only for his own benefit. But how many in power have destroyed themselves, and how many has fame and wealth and power led into absolute personal misery (even while they subjected others to misery as well)?
Let me pose a hypothetical to the wise atheist philosopher out there or the curious non-believer that might think that I am utterly foolish in believing in a God that in their words “doesn’t exist”:
If there was no God and no Jesus, what harm would a man do in surrendering authority to something or someone that didn’t exist? Will you willingly in your heart and aloud in your words profess belief and surrender and see for yourself whether His promise is true or not?
My belief would hold out hope that your one act of genuinely seeking Him might prove to be a greater benefit than any decades of denying Him, because He has done it before in my own life.
And if there is a God and He is worthy of Authority (and He is the only one able to wield it properly) — would you rather be cooperating in handing over the authority to Him or leaving in the hands of men?
I realize that Authority is hard to willingly hand over if we have seen it misused. But as Christians, we should respect authority, even wicked men who are put into places of authority — because it is God who has put them in those positions of authority for His glory and for our good.
Even those who are in place temporarily to oppress us give us the opportunity to endure faithfully as a testimony that our faith does not trust in one man or another being in a position of authority — but that we know that God has placed that man there.
Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished. For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. Would you like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will honor you. The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good. But if you are doing wrong, of course you should be afraid, for they have the power to punish you. They are God’s servants, sent for the very purpose of punishing those who do what is wrong. So you must submit to them, not only to avoid punishment, but also to keep a clear conscience. Pay your taxes, too, for these same reasons. For government workers need to be paid. They are serving God in what they do. Give to everyone what you owe them: Pay your taxes and government fees to those who collect them, and give respect and honor to those who are in authority.
Romans 13:1-7 NLT
You who are slaves must submit to your masters with all respect. Do what they tell you—not only if they are kind and reasonable, but even if they are cruel. For God is pleased when, conscious of his will, you patiently endure unjust treatment. Of course, you get no credit for being patient if you are beaten for doing wrong. But if you suffer for doing good and endure it patiently, God is pleased with you. For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps. He never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone. He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly. He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed. Once you were like sheep who wandered away. But now you have turned to your Shepherd, the Guardian of your souls.
1 Peter 2:18-25 NLT
Remind the believers to submit to the government and its officers. They should be obedient, always ready to do what is good. They must not slander anyone and must avoid quarreling. Instead, they should be gentle and show true humility to everyone. Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other.
Titus 3:1-3 NLT