Obeying authority is not something Americans generally do well. Our nation was birthed in revolution, and some time after the Second World War rebellion became fashionable.
James Dean personified the troubled youth at odds with his parents in the 1955 cult classic “Rebel Without a Cause.” The 1960s and 1970s are remembered as an era of a new strain of music defined by its insubordination and nonconformity. Cynicism and skepticism of socio norms was the Zeitgeist. College campuses became protest grounds, and government and “the system” became the objects of their rejection.
It is interesting that the 1960s, an era renowned for its brand of anarchy, also ushered in many occult practices, such as the use of psychedelic drugs, crystals, and sexual hedonism. “Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft,” says 1 Samuel 15:23. Knowing how God feels about witchcraft, sorcery, and divination tells us therefore how He feels about rebellion – it’s an abomination to Him.
The church is hardly immune from cultural forces. Throughout scripture, however, God clearly instructs that those who wish to remain in the safety of His will must honor the authorities that He has placed over them. It is difficult when we see an authority abusing his power or an administration acting in lawlessness. Nevertheless, we are called to honor the office of authority. This means government, church leaders, teachers and bosses, and especially parents.
Notice that Paul, Peter, and Jude in their letters all rank despising authority right up there with the most egregious sins:
Knowing how God feels should bring about holy fear and repentance. Conviction and an apology to a former boss during a time when I wasn’t walking with the Lord brought about immeasurable blessing into my life that I’m still enjoying. Good authority is for our own protection. It does not mean we agree with everything an authority says or does; rather, it is about respect and obedience where it does not violate the law of the Lord.
I’ll never forget a pastor who ministers to juvenile delinquents give a testimony of what the Lord told him to tell the angry young people whom he visited in detention facilities.
“They hated the system, hated ‘the man,’ and in many cases, seemed to have good justification for doing so,” this pastor said. “The arresting officer or someone in the facility may have handled them roughly. What was I to say in response that could penetrate their hearts?”
“The Lord told me to tell them this,” he continued. “‘Because you refused to submit to the authorities that cared for you, now you must submit to the authorities that don’t.’ And when they hear it, they’re silent, because in almost every case they know it’s true.”