Authority and the blessedness of submission

Now before I share the next part of the principle of authority and submission there is something I have to acknowledge. I must acknowledge my own tendency to reject authority. I feel rebelliousness course through my veins like white blood cells attempting to fight off a virus or like the Dark Side of the Force channeling through a Sith Lord.

Authority is a threat to my personal autonomy and individuality – so I think, therefore there is the tendency to resist and reject it. The nature of this is subtle and most of the time it is unintentional, but at other times it is acted out with stubborn, defiant intent.

I think back to when I was a child. I remember being alone – a lot. I remember not really answering to anyone. This at a time when learning about authority and submission were essential to my relational development. My parents weren’t bad, they just weren’t present which was typical for many GenX’ers. I wasn’t necessarily a straight up rebellious child, however I wouldn’t describe myself as submissive either. The more appropriate word would be compliant. There is an ocean of difference between the two. Submission and compliance may look the same on the surface but the motives behind these responses are categorically juxtaposed.

Compliance is submitting to an authority against your will until you can either remove that authority, remove yourself from that authority, justify your actions to defy that authority, or defame that authority so that in your mind the authority is no longer worthy of your compliance.

The motive of compliance is selfishness.

“What can I get out of this?”
“What’s in it for me?”

Maybe it is acceptance, love, or some other emotional reward or relational need being met in an unhealthy way. Maybe it is a promotion at work. (Just think of the people who comply until they become the boss and then become intolerable.) Compliance is how many people have learned to respond to authority because many have not had enough positive, healthy, trusting relationships with authority.

Submission, on the other hand, is voluntary and is based on the virtues of love, honor and respect. It is unselfish, however there are wonderful personal benefits. But submission absolutely goes against every grain of our rebellious nature, especially when we feel the authority doesn’t deserve our honor or respect. Remember Paul’s command to the Roman Christians to submit to the Roman leaders mentioned in part 1? Romans 13 He didn’t tell them to conform or compromise but to honor and respect them whether or not Christians felt the Roman leaders deserved it.

It seems that submission is not our natural response to authority. Submission is a learned response and our introduction to the principle of authority  and submission begins in the home, with our parents or at least it should and according to my own experience if it is not learned at home you will have a lifetime of hurt until you finally learn how to relate to authority. I would even go so far as to posit that submission is part of God’s design and He has our good in mind. Now, take a moment think about the broad implications of this principle.

Did a light bulb come on? Let me help.

In order to understand God’s wisdom in this you have to entreat yourself to the truth found in one of the 10 Commandments. In the sixth commandment submission is stated as a basic life principle that brings life and protection.

 Honor your father and your mother so that you may
have a long life in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
(Exodus 20:12, HCSB)

Let me make a few observations.

  1. You can’t honor without submission.
  2. Honor earthly authority you honor God’s authority and channel God’s blessings your direction.
  3. Through submission you get the most out of your relationships.
  4. Submission isn’t conditional.
  5. Submission prepares a person for a lifetime of living under whatever authority he finds himself.

How many people do you know who have a hard time submitting to and relating with authority? How many of those people move from job to job? How many of those have difficulty with the law? How many of those people have difficulty in their marriage or have had multiple marriages? How many of those are fired over and over again? How many smart off to teachers, parents, police, pastors and employers? How many of them are now raising children of their own? Scary isn’t it!

You see learning to submit to/honor authority is a vitally important characteristic that must be learned. The principle is inherent to life in God’s design. So, you will either learn the easy way or the hard way.

 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling
against what God has instituted, and those who
do so will bring judgment on themselves. (Romans 13:2, HCSB)

This is true for every area of our lives.

On a personal note, I can think of many times in my life when I rejected authority, good positive, healthy authority, which caused me to miss some amazing opportunities. I am also guilty of complying for selfish reasons then removing myself from under an authority of which God had established and because of that I missed God’s blessings and protection that would have come from that authority. Doh!

Can you think of times when you have done that?

Now the reality is not all who are in positions of authority are good. Let me stress that I am not talking about being a doormat. But as much as possible you should strive to follow the principle to respect and honor the authority. Trust me, I have counseled enough students in my time to know that some of them have terrible parents. You may have a terrible boss or an unloving husband. How can you submit to a disreputable person?

Submit unto ______________ as to the Lord.
Until God removes you, removes him, he repents, circumstances change
or your conscious lets you move on, submit.

This principle grants peace to your conscience, which is a blessing in and of itself when dealing with a difficult person.

Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities,
not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.
(Romans 13:5, HCSB)

In other words do not needlessly dishonor or disrepute those in authority. By taking this approach your conscience will remain clear. God can deal with those in authority so much more completely than you can and your submission will heap coals on their heads, it puts them under conviction.

The imminent benefit: living by this principle allows you to have a healthy relationship with the authorities over you which can open all kinds of doors for you for the rest of your life. It can even make you a better leader when its your time to be in charge.

You may be under a terrible boss now but honoring him or her may catch the attention of the person you really want to work for. Personally, I have had a few terrible supervisors in my time and this principle brought favor to me. I have witnessed a wife submit to an unloving husband giving him the honor and respect he didn’t deserve which radically changed him into a man who was loving and respectable. The movie War Room acknowledges this principle when one of the characters humorously stated, “Submission means that the wife ducks so God can hit her husband.” It’s funny but that is how God has designed it to work. We trust God as we submit to those in authority over us and we trust that God will judge, discipline, remove, or bring to repentance those authorities who mistreat and misuse us.

My wonderful, amazing wife has used this unfair tactic many times over our 22 years of marriage. It’s why we are still married, why I love her and why I am a much better husband, father, pastor, etc.

Have you had to learn this principle the hard way? You can change, but it will take intentional effort and …… repentance. The tendency to reject authority is part of the sin nature. I required a powerful, personal revelation of Christ through the Good News. It was only then that I voluntarily submitted to God. This voluntary submission was partly due to a revelation of his “wrath against sin” but primarily His love, grace and mercy. Those attributes are why I can now honor and respect the One I once hated and despised. My repentance opened up a whole world to me that was not accessible before. Once I humbled myself before THE AUTHORITY, began to learn His commands I learned the value of honoring other authorities and although I haven’t been perfect, missed my share of opportunities I can tell you that I have also experienced many awesome opportunities that I would never have had if I had not put this part of my life in order.