Tuesday, March 8, 2011
"Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God." - Romans 13.1 (ESV)
This may be one of the most purposely overlooked verses in the whole Bible. There is just something about being in submission to authority that grates against us. Perhaps this is due to the American spirit of independence; for was not our country founded upon the rebellion of our forefathers? Is it not taught that we boldly stand up for our rights? We value our rights and the freedoms that we have as citizens of this country but at what cost?
It is said that we should consider the past in order that we might not fall into the same mistakes that were made by those who came before us. In light of this, let us consider the day and age when Christianity was just in the beginning of its development. This was the time of the apostles and the prophets. Men like Paul and Peter were at the forefront of this movement that was even said to "have turned the world upside down" (Acts 17.6). What was Paul's advice when it came to how the believer in Christ was to relate to the governmental authorities? Submission!
Now before we speak of how this teaching might affect our own attitude or treatment of authority, we must consider the situation in which these early Christians found themselves. They were labeled a sect by most of their contemporaries and mistrusted because of Christianity's close ties to Judaism (the Jews were known in the Roman world as troublemakers and rebels). Not only this but along with the preaching of the gospel (and the subsequent conversion of many) came fierce opposition from many in the Jewish community which resulted in civil unrest most every place the gospel was taken. This association with all the civil unrest did not put Christians into a favorable place among the people of the Roman Empire. In fact, for over a hundred years following the time of the apostles Christianity was consistently persecuted by the majority of the populace and oppressed by those in authority. Yet Paul has the audacity to tell his readers to be known as model citizens? This is due to how God views authority and the way in which He expects man to respond to it.
Let us travel further back in time to the most loved king of Israel's past: King David. We have record of two separate occasions when David had the opportunity to kill Saul but refused to do so (see I Sam 24 & 26). God had already told Saul that he had forfeited his right to be king because of his disobedience and had Samuel the prophet anoint David to be king in Saul's place. However, Saul continued to act as king for some time with David mostly on the run from Saul's attempts to kill him! David recognized that God was the one who had anointed Saul as king and that it was His prerogative to remove him when He saw fit.
However, we must not dismiss the importance of authority and leadership as it relates to our daily interactions with those around us. Whether at work, in school, on the road or at home, all of us deal with those in authority over us and must exercise responsibly the authority that we have been given. It should also be noted that there are some key differences between authority and leadership. Authority is the right and responsibility to lead, while leadership is the ability to lead. One might say that the authorities are in charge while leaders tend to take charge. It goes without saying that not all those in authority are good leaders. Moreover, those who lead well do not necessarily occupy positions of authority. Problems tend to arise either within our own hearts or in open conflict when both the ability and right to lead are not adequately joined together.
In regards to how we deal with authority, we must keep in mind that our responsibility is to respect and submit to the authorities over us and even to encourage others to do likewise. When we find ourselves in a position of authority we should constantly seek to better ourselves in our ability to lead those who are under us, for such is the duty that comes with authority. Furthermore, if we discover that we are more aptly suited to influence the lives of those around us than even the one in authority, we should to do so faithfully while continuing to respect the one in authority.
All in all we submit to the ultimate authority - God Almighty Himself. Jesus was the perfect leader and it is He who said: "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." -Matt 28.18-20
Monday, January 17, 2011
Confession time: I like playing video games. And watching tv. AND reading sci-fi/fantasy books....
In the past I have attempted to appease my conscience by telling myself that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with these things. After all, what 20-year old guy doesn't like to play some video games at least every once in a while? What's so wrong with watching tv? It's relaxing my mind and is just a nice form of entertainment. I'm not even watching any of those inappropriate shows! And what could be bad about reading some books? Isn't reading supposed to be a good exercise for your brain? A thousand and one other excuses always seemed available to counter any doubts about these activities or any other ones like them. Then I read this verse: "Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise, but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil" (Eph 5.15-16). Or how about this one: "Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time" (Col 4.5)? Wow. Talk about a wake up call.
In light of these words a decision must be made. What life will we choose? Is it to be fantasy or reality? We in America have become all too accustomed to a life of persistent delusions. We are professional daydreamers. We consistently prefer to accept lies over and above the truth. If you have any doubt about it, then simply walk down the aisles of any supermarket, or turn on the tv, or take a drive in your car. Images confront us everywhere we go to purchase the latest and greatest - to enjoy maximum comfort brought by our technological advancements.
I must say that I don't believe it is necessarily wrong to enjoy some form of entertainment or relaxation. What I am saying is that I believe we (myself included) tend to preoccupy ourselves with entertainment and relaxation rather than God and His Word. This is nothing new, for it is the nature of the flesh to focus on self rather than others. Though this indeed tends to be the call to Christians: get outside yourself, know God, and reach out to others. However, a dilemma occurs when we attempt to straddle the fence between Christ and the world.
We relish the fictional because it helps to distract us from reality. Truth: most of the world lives below the poverty level. Truth: human slavery still persists today in the form of sex-slaves. Truth: clean water and adequate nutrition are unavailable to most people throughout the world. As if these were not enough, we, as Christians, understand that these problems are "the tip of the iceberg" so to speak. Truth: over a third of the world's population have never even heard the name of Jesus. Truth: if nobody goes, there is no preaching; if nobody preaches, there is no hearing; if nobody hears, there is no believing; if nobody believes, there is no hope. Truth: God's desire is for ALL mankind to be saved - coming to the knowledge of the truth!
We must cling to the truth! Jesus said that the truth will set us free. His Word is truth - we must immerse ourselves in its cleansing waters of life. Christianity is not about Bible bookstores, or going to church, or feeling good about yourself. Christianity is about the truth!
Talking to Christians, Paul said: "for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light" (Eph 5.8). None of us would argue the complete difference between darkness and light. By definition they are totally contradictory to one another. God has made us into NEW creations, yet we tend to cling so much to the old. The exhortation is clear: Behave as those who have been enlightened to the truth! However, the implication is also clear: we may choose to live as if we had never known the truth in the first place! And is this not the supreme struggle that every Christian faces, though they may not even admit to it? Philippians 4.8 says this: "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."
Know it. Live it.