Respecting authority may seem like a common sense issue, but for some of us this isn’t the case. I was raised in a home where the philosophy was “a person must earn your respect; it’s not something that is freely given.” Growing up I always thought this philosophy made sense, and it was an easy philosophy to live by. I should have known that if it was easy, it probably wasn’t right.
It wasn’t until my senior year of high school that I began to question this philosophy. I transferred to a Christian school my senior year. I had an amazingly wise government teacher who used the Bible to teach us some principles about government. One of the principles he taught us was that it is Biblical to pay taxes. That was an interesting concept to me, but he proved it using the scriptures found in Matthew 22:15-22 in which Jesus says, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” He showed us how people who are put in a position of authority over us were put in that position by God, and that we are to respect the position God has put them in. For example: God has put our parents, teachers, bosses, government officials, etc…in the position they are in, and we are to respect them for that reason alone. In respecting authority we are in turn respecting God, who has seen fit to place those people in a position of authority.
The Bible makes several references to respect. Leviticus 19:3 states, “Each of you must respect his mother and father.” “Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God,” Leviticus 19:32. The idea of freely giving respect is contrary to our human nature, but it is clearly what the Bible calls us to do. Ephesians 6:5-7 states, “Slaves obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eyes are on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men.” I Peter 2:17 states, “Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good, but also to those who are harsh.” This is definitely contrary to MY human nature.
There may be times when someone in authority asks us to do something that is contrary to what God has commanded. In these situations we are expected to obey God and to follow His commands, even if it means going against a person in authority over us. However, God expects us to do this in a respectful manner.
In my life I’ve learned that the hard thing to do is usually the right thing to do. We are born with a sinful nature, and the way the Lord calls us to live is contrary to our human nature and desires. The Bible says, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it,” Matthew 7:13,14.
We can choose to submit ourselves to God’s will by acknowledging the authority He has put in our lives, or we can resist authority and God and follow the road that leads to destruction. Not submitting ourselves to authority, as long as that authority is not contradicting God’s commands, is defying God. As Christians, we are called to a higher standard than that of the world. It’s not our right (even though we would like it to be) to decide which authority in our lives deserves our respect. God has seen fit to put particular people in a place of authority, and for that reason alone they deserve our respect. In disrespecting authority we are actually disrespecting God.