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January 13, 2009 / beidson

Police, Presidents, Parliaments, Parents and Preschoolers: How All Authorities Point To Christ And What We Should Do About It

When I was a teenager, it was a very funny and cool thing to make fun of policemen by callingpolice them all sorts of derogatory names, leveling them to the likes of dirty barnyard animals.  In retrospect, we were fools, as Proverbs makes abundantly clear–fools speak first and think later.  In fact, we had not thought deeply enough about what it meant to revile authority.  Had I understood the constraints and cosmic law of God made plain in the Scriptures, I would have realized that to smirkingly call policemen “pigs” was, in essence, to call God a pig, since policemen are granted authority from God himself.

This ought to cause us to think twice before we speak arrogantly and ignorantly against the powers-that-be.  Though they are certainly not exempt from criticism, even to the harshest degree, there is no room for condescension since we ourselves are bound by the same self-worshipping law of sin and are equally prone to misuse our authority and influence for sinful gain.  We might disagree with a cop for giving us a traffic citation–maybe we really did come to a complete stop–but we are not permitted by Scripture to kick against the cop’s authority.  He might be wrong; nevertheless, he has not necessarily misused his authority.  This goes for any person in authority, whether it’s the President, or Parliament, or a teacher, or a parent.  Though they may be wrong at times, this does not make their authority illegitimate.

As for those who misuse their authority, we must rightly understand that it is just that: a misuse of authority.  As such, we should not rebel against authority per se, but against the persons who are clearly and intentionally abusing their power in tyrannical ways.  Civil disobedience may be necessary at times, but keep in mind that the point is not anarchy but reform.  That is to say, so much do we regard proper authority that we depose the wicked in order that those who practice justice may properly execute the office which has such authority.  Understand my point: even civil disobedience should be fearfully and faithfully carried out within a theological framework, or a just and moral framework at the very least.

The reason why a parent should never mumble against a cop in front of his children is because, by doing so, he would be wrongfully teaching his children about the authority of God, specifically, Jesus Christ.  The reason children should not be allowed to talk back to their parents has less to do with the dignity of the parents and more to do with the dignity of a ruling King.  If children do not properly understand the framework of authority with which God has set up civilazation, they will not understand justice and judgment, and they will not understand God.  And this could lead to their personal ruin and even the ruin of their societies.

When our children lash out against us, or your coworker runs his mouth about the President, or you speak under your breath about your church staff, remember this: authority is God’s idea, and those people are acting on behalf of God.  They will sin, sure, but this should not minimize the legitimacy of the proper authority they ought to be executing.  When we begin to snicker at authority and encourage others to belittle our authorities, we are not far from Pilate, who mockingly hung a sign over Jesus’ head, calling him “King of the Jews.”  Irony of ironies, that in mocking the supposed authority of the s0-called King of the Jews, he was rightly recognizing the one who was in fact the King of the Jews (and Gentiles too).  And so we are guilty too, if by mocking authority we think we are right in doing so.

So if you get a ticket, and you really don’t deserve it, make an appeal in traffic court.  But keep your mouth shut–your kids are trying to understand how King Jesus is ruling the world.

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