“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. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment…Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good.” Romans 13:1-4
When I hear that word, I squirm, it gives me a sense of uneasiness and I don’t immediately comply. Usually I expect people to prove they have authority over me and I only respect the leaders I think are worthy of such a title. I have struggled with this since I was very young. I’ve never cared much for the concept. I’ve worked hard in my life to get to a place where I didn’t have to work for anyone except myself, it’s one of the reasons, if not the main reason, I started my own business. ‘Don’t tell me what to do or how to do it!’ ‘Don’t tell me how to live my life!’ ‘You’re not the boss of me!’
Bad attitude? Of course. Do I care? Yes. Have I always cared? No. Am I working on it? Absolutely. Some would call it pride, I can’t say I disagree, pride is at the root of all sin, but I’ve come to realize for me it goes much deeper than just a simple label.
As a young person I struggled in the area of choices. I didn’t feel as though I had a right to make any, and when I did venture into the world of choosing I typically felt shut down or led to believe I couldn’t be trusted to make the right ones. Often control of anything, no matter how small felt beyond my reach, this led me into some very unhealthy habits (of which I will address at a later time). This distrust in myself grew and overtime, drove me to an unhealthy dependency on others. I needed others to make the important decisions in my life for me, because without their guidance I simply didn’t know how to function.
Over the last few years I have been learning how to step out and make my own decisions, learning to trust myself to make the right ones. I’ve taken back control over many areas of my life that were out of control or that I simply handed over for others to control for me. Now that I have a better sense of what is mine it’s now entirely possible for me to surrender myself to Christ. Where as before, I didn’t even know what to hand over to Him or how. Do I always do the right thing, absolutely not; however, Jesus is teaching me to trust Him and the more I lean in to hear His voice the better my choices become. I wish I had learned to depend on Him sooner but I am grateful for the lessons I have learned through the struggle.
Why was that all so important? I promise I have a point. Keep reading, or for those of you with authority issues like myself, don’t keep reading. So back to authority.
Because I have this unquenchable thirst to control everything in my life (yes, I’m still working on it) this whole issue of authority, especially an authority figure whom I absolutely hold no respect for, is a real struggle for me.
I have this teacher. He is absolutely ridiculously power hungry, every other word out of his mouth is an “F” word or some sort of obscene comment, he is completely abrasive, verbally abusive and he thinks it’s funny. If his choice of conduct wasn’t enough, his choice of lifestyle screams I want nothing to do with Jesus. He is very condescending towards anything that has to do with faith and he will not hesitate to tell you exactly what he thinks of your work and and it’s rarely good, unless you are a genius or just plain lucky, don’t expect a compliment.
This is where I find myself wrestling with scripture. “For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” Really? I mean really? What about that boss you can’t stand, or that supervisor know it all who is under your boss (they aren’t even really your boss!) or the president of the US…really God… Obama is from you? “For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.”
“Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.”
Ooooo, I don’t like that part. ‘But God there are so many reasons to resist.’ ‘They’re just simply wrong! Don’t you understand if I do what they say, I’m letting them win!’ ‘Don’t you say, you have plans to prosper me and not to harm me?!? This has to be hazardous to my health!’
“For he is God’s servant for your good.”
Now I know that this is a typo. ‘God, he doesn’t even serve you.’ ‘He doesn’t even like you! How can this all be for my good.’
There you go, an unedited version of the dialogue going through my head while I read this passage. Now for the version that has been sifted through His hands…based on the truth of scripture.
This teacher has been placed in authority over me. The Bible did not say I have to like it. I do have to respect it. I do have to trust that the Lord has a plan and lesson to teach me through it all. I do have to love him as Christ loved me. Perhaps he has been appointed as my teacher to drive me to depend more on Jesus who lives in me. Perhaps this teacher, is God’s servant (God can use whomever he wants to, in spite of their unbelief) to show me where I am still in need of refinement. Perhaps God is using this person to provide me with opportunities to be more grace filled and to exercise love and to offer compassion.
Behind this man’s cold, arrogant, harsh and angry eyes, I see something. It’s something that surrounds me every day, and it’s also something I often ignore because I simply don’t love enough, I don’t chose to notice.
It’s pain. Deep, unbearable, brokenness, anguish of the soul and down in there, deep in there, is a lost little boy who has been made fun of too often, led to believe he isn’t worth being loved, rejected and in his eagerness to please was either ignored or shut down. His only choice…to fight. If only he knew how the Father’s heart breaks for him. Jesus expand my capacity to love this man and show him you.
And maybe we are more alike than I care to admit. Striving to control anything and everything so we can bring order and predictability to our world. We never felt in control so now we are drunk on power. The only thing that separates us is I live under the authority of Jesus Christ and continually choose to surrender, His grace so mercifully covers me.
Who is my authority? Jesus. And I must obey him and love this man unconditionally.
Who is your authority? Who is it you need to choose to notice and choose to love?