Thursday, May 20, 2010

Respect my authority

I have been a little lax about keeping my end of this up, but I will try to do a better job in the future. I was discussing a rather heady topic with some friends at a fellowship gathering this week and am still trying to sort it out. The content shown in Romans 13:1 and 1 Peter 2:13 tell us to accept authority, even when it is "wrong". This has been construed to apply to governments, bosses, parents, etc. That, on its face, is acceptable, even though it can be a bitter pill to swallow in those times. By submitting, you are clearly demonstrating trust and obedience to God.

However, it is hard not to notice the string of figures that are held up in both the Old and New Testaments who defy earthly authority in favor of God's. Rahab was an example a friend bought up in discussion, but Moses did it too. Peter and John pretty nakedly defied the Sanhedrin in Acts 4, too, which is kind of hard to reconcile.

Without getting mired in theological abstraction, I have questions about what this means practically. What is the takeaway as far as resisting unjust laws or the pursuit of social justice? How do we, as Christians, need to interact politically and socially and view our history in the face of such moral questions of the day (and yesterday)?

Quite simply, I don't know. (Seems like a cop out, right?) We unanimously decided that our attitudes cannot be divorced from faith in favor of parsing the legalism of Scripture. We cannot substitute inaction in the guise of submission, either. We venerate the nameless footsoldiers in Ohio and Kentucky who spirited slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad, even though they were in violation of the law of the land. Yet we know viscerally that enslaving people is morally abhorrent, regardless of its legal status.

When faced with an analogous social ill today, what are our roles and responsibilities? I am pretty sure it comes at the individual level, and not in some sort of larger political pursuit. Deciding when the Will of God in your life means to defy earthly authority does not have a recipe to determine its result; it is dependent on your individual relationship with Him. However, that also has the potential to lead to outcomes like Scott Roeder, the recent Kansas abortion doctor murder, or the Waynesboro Baptist Church (I don't mean to pick on Kansas), both of which I can roundly say are not consistent with the Will of God as I understand it based on my relationship with Him. Having a solid relationship based on knowledge of His Word is indispensable and quite simply unavoidable, because also serves to warn against false prophets and their snares.

At the end of this discussion, none of us felt like we could authoritatively speak on any particular issue anymore than we did before we got started. Unfortunately, you probably can't after reading this either. The takeaway, though, is just more evidence that an active and personal relationship with Christ is necessary to responsibly navigate these questions that we face in the world and I hope this encourages you.

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