No question, many of us have a bittersweet relationship with [our idea of] “authority”. We know it’s essential, we know it’s relevant…but we chafe when it comes to being under it1.
Perhaps you’ve wondered why “authority” rubs people the wrong way and creates quivers among the masses…
If that’s you, then you’re in the right place.
‘Cause whether you’re in authority and suspect the authenticity of your subordinates…or are under it and think the term is nothing more than a means for manipulation/a code word for power, addressing the issue of ‘what to do when you question authority’ is key.
With that said, here are a couple practical ways to rightfully deal with authority (as supported by Scripture):
1) Pray. As cliché as it may sound, voicing supplication is not so much a ‘good idea’, as it is a Kingdom mandate (or as I call…an “appointed opportunity“) for us to engage. Take 1 Timothy 2:1-3 for instance. In this passage, Paul is urging his younger colleague to intercede for all. Yet, as Paul commences his rundown in verse 2, note how he doesn’t start with the Isaiah 61:1 trio (i.e. poor, brokenhearted, and captives)…he starts with kings and all who are in high positions!
Why is this important, you might ask? Well, if we start with Scriptural context, the higher-ups of Paul’s time were despised political groups, mainly Roman officials and religious leaders (ex: The Jerusalem Council). So by saying, ‘all who are in high positions’, Paul wastes no time in going after the white elephant in the room…which for his audience was “loving your enemies”.
Despite the challenging command, Paul’s initiative here is not so much the call itself as it is the hope of God’s faithfulness, particularly in helping us “lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way”2 (v. 2b). Thus, it should be no surprise Paul strategically writes this in an attention-grabbing way, considering the awesome reward promised through obedience. Pretty cool, eh?
So in short, Paul takes the Golden Rule and stitches it to prayer’s original design. More specifically, we pray for all men because it a) glorifies God and b) since we’d want others to do the same for us…regardless of how they feel. True, you may not want to pray for certain individuals, such as those who seem to have it all together…who disregard you…and/or who give the “peaceful and godly life” a bad name…
…but if you think about it, would not the world be a better place if what you hoped for actually happened?
2) Set the example. While prayer sets an inner tone, it’s important to set an external one as well. How do we accomplish this? By inspiring others to submit to authority! Granted, this may not sound like a thrilling concept; nevertheless, for prayer to be fervent and effective, it must ultimately be tethered to action, which in an authority context, is accomplished once we choose to be content wherever we are.
For example, you may be far down the totem pole with respect to your workplace hierarchy. You may think people look down on you because you’re young or have other priorities. Instead of grumbling, complaining, and/or risking a half-hearted effort, why not flip the frustration3 into rejoicing and be a living, breathing manifestation of Colossians 3:23:
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.”
‘Cause truth is, when we focus on Christ, our ultimate authority, we not only promote a heart of humility, but we also position ourselves to better serve our earthly authorities, encouraging others to do the same…all the while preserving the integrity of our influence as the healthy outflow of obedience.
So by honoring authority, by word and action, we model a tangible faith with the power to draw people near to the light we carry. Sure, we may not always agree with our earthly authorities…heck, we may not even like them…but if we’re faithful to rely on God as our vindicator…if we confess our desire to inspire the hope of Christ, then we’ll better understand how a) God always appoints with a purpose (see Romans 13:1-7)…and b) He wants us to be a part of that purpose!
I don’t know about you…but I want to accept the mission to not only honor authority…but love the way God positions people, regardless if it’s impossible in my own strength.
Stay tuned next time for a ‘second half wrap-up’ of this post, in which we’ll address our final two points on rightfully dealing with authority.
1) Or for some, operating within or delegating it
2) Granted we stay faithful to pray for all people
3) Or temptation to be frustrated
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