Should We Really Submit To Authority?

Monty Hale

Monty Hale is the director of the Bivocational and Guidestone office of Pastoral Ministries at the South Carolina Baptist Convention. His duties include assisting pastors and churches in transition, developing projects and initiatives to promote healthy leaders, and assisting churches with effective conflict resolution. Prior to joining the SCBC staff in April 2005, Hale served as Leadership Development Specialist for the Missouri Baptist Convention, and as a pastor for various Baptist churches.

The mysterious, invisible authority of the divine child over human hearts is more solidly grounded then the visible and resplendent power of earthly rulers. Ultimately all authority on earth must serve only the authority of Jesus Christ over humankind.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas

The iron fist of Rome had come down hard in persecution of those who would not confess Caesar as lord, but the early followers of Jesus were not going to submit to an evil society that went against the teachings of their crucified Master. As a result, many were taken to horrible deaths, martyred for the cause of Christ. Those who remained lived with the anxiety of knowing it was just a matter of time before they too would be led away and put to death at the hands of tyrants.

Yet, the movement thrived in that environment and ultimately took over the Roman Empire. How could they defy the authority and still live upon the principles of Romans 13? They did it in a way not familiar to our North American culture of revolution. They demonstrated the love of Christ to a world that would not bend or bow to that love.

When Roman parents didn’t want a child because of a deformity, he or she wasn’t the sex they wanted, or they just had too many kids, they put them out on the doorstep of their homes to be taken away by wild animals. The Christians couldn’t stand for this, so they would roam the streets at night and pick up these rejected children, raising them as their own. When the plague wreaked havoc on the city, the authorities ordered an evacuation and most everyone left the afflicted to die. The Christians stayed and ministered to those in need.

Did it cost many their lives? Yes. But the love of Christ compelled them to defy the authority of selfishness and hate. Slowly but surely the Romans were drawn to Christianity. Slowly but surely the Romans were drawn to Christianity. After 300 years, Constantine knew what needed to be done and the Roman world officially became Christian, all because Christians submitted to the ultimate authority of Jesus Christ.

So what do we do when a tyrannical authority is place over us? Submit to the authority of Jesus Christ. Could that cost us our lives? Yes, that is a distinct possibility. As we follow the example of our 1st century brothers and sisters, willingly placing ourselves on the altar as a “living sacrifice” coming under the authority of Christ, the hostile culture we live in will slowly but surely be drawn to that authority.

Should we keep the laws, pay our taxes and live in peace as best we can? Yes, but by looking past the earthly authority to the heavenly authority and doing everything unto God and not unto man. This perspective compels us to do things that are counter-cultural and revolutionary, all in the name of our Lord.

 

 

 

 

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