We live in a world of rebellion where laws and authorities are constantly defied. People no longer want to be governed and bound by a set of rules. They want things their way, immediately, and at all costs. And to achieve it they often resort to slander, protest, violence, and even war.
It has become a common thing today to see children rebelling against their parents, defying the authority of theirs teachers, breaking laws that do not suit their way of thinking, and braving most interdictions.
Adults have also engaged in all kinds of revolts. From the household to the workplace, and from the neighborhood to the public arena, clamors and tumults have emerged – and contestations, whether legitimate or not, are quick to ignite an already volatile climate fed by fear, suspicions, and conspiracy theories.
Obedience and submission
Obedience to God
God’s commandment to man has always been to obey God’s law and this for his own benefits.
From the Garden of Eden to Mount Sinai, the message has always been the same: ‘Obey the law of God that you shall live’ (Genesis 2:15-17, Genesis 20:12, Deuteronomy 30:19-20, Leviticus 25:18).
Obedience pleases God and is referenced many times in the Scriptures as the only way to receive His blessing (Isaiah 1:19, Ephesians 6:1-3).
Obeying God is loving God, and loving God is obeying is commandments.
1 John 5:3 tells us: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome”.
Oppositely, disobedience is a sin, and sadly history and biblical accounts have demonstrated that man has often made the wrong choice of it.
1 John 3:8 states: “He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil”.
Obedience to authorities
Every nation or society in the world is governed by a set of rules that ensures rights for its people and duties as well.
Whether we live in a monarchy, republic, or tribe, the functioning remains the same. Leaders are imposed or appointed over the people to guaranty their safety, well-being, and prosperity, and also to enforce all given and accepted rules.
Laws are the rules of any organized society and authorities their guardians.
The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 13:1-7: “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor”.
Obedience is crucial
In a corrupt and perverse world, while facing injustice and abuse, what should the attitude of the believer be? To submit and surrender, defy and conspire, or rebel and riot?
The good attitude
The story of the prophet Daniel – found in the Book of the same name – gives us a good perspective of how a person who fears God should act.
Taken from Judah and deported to the city of Babylon, in the time of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Daniel was just a young man when he entered the service of the king of Babylon along with some of his countrymen.
Did he miss his country? Certainly yes. Was this the kind of life he dreamed about? Probably no. But Daniel kept a good attitude, served and attended all kings of Babylon and Persia, from king Nebuchadnezzar to king Cyrus, all the days of his life.
Daniel was obedient to God, submitted to the king, and respectful of the laws of the babylonians.
Jesus, the perfect example of obedience
Did Jesus rebel against the governing authorities of His time? No! He did not.
Though He was the ‘Son of David’ (the announced King) He did not come to claim the kingdom off of Herod and overthrow the whole roman empire.
Jesus came to restore worship to God, to lead us back to the Father (John 14:6), and pay off the debt of our sins (Romans 6:23). He came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).
He was not seeking political power or recognition from men, and at no time did he turn the people against their leaders or organize a rebellion/revolution. When asked if it was lawful to pay taxes to the emperor in Matthew 22:15-22, He answered: “Show Me the tax money… Whose image and inscription is this? … Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
Christ was submitted to the rulers of His time, and also paying taxes (Matthew 17:24-27).
His sole concerns were for the souls of men and for this reason He was constantly going from one place to another, teaching the Scriptures, healing the sick, freeing the demon-possessed, and exposing religious deceitfulness.
Many times, He confronted the scribes and the Pharisees because they were failing in their mission to lead the people to know and worship God. He did not beat around the bush to denounce their hypocrisy, point out their self-righteousness, and disclose their spiritual blindness.
Yet, Jesus never enticed the people to break free from their authority. Instead, He said to them: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do” (Matthew 23:2-3).
After His arrest, when on trial before the High priest, the Elders of the people, the chief priests, and the whole council, Christ did not oppose His judges or even confront the phony witnesses who were giving false reports against Him.
He calmly answered their questions and kept silent at times. After being wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death, He quietly endured the beating, the mockery, and the crucifixion.
The prophet Isaiah, alluding to the Christ, wrote this, long before it actually happens:
He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth;
He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth.
He was taken from prison and from judgment, and who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living;
For the transgressions of My people He was stricken. And they made His grave with the wicked — But with the rich at His death, because He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth. (Isaiah 53:7-9)
Attitude toward those in authority
Prayers for those in authority
We have the duty not only to submit to all authorities but also to pray for them.
In 1 Timothy 2:1-4, it is written: “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
To obey or not to obey harsh laws?
Because all human laws are not so easy to bear, people tend to abide to some and reject the others. The truth is, we must conform to all laws, unless they infringe the laws of God. And even at this point, our call is not to object by worldly or sly ways, but to denounce all evil and do what is right before God, as the Lord has instructed us.
In Acts chapter 4, two disciples of Christ: Peter and John, were arrested for preaching the Gospel and healing a paralyzed man in the name of Jesus. At their release, the next day, the priests, the elders, and the scribes commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20). In other words: ‘We rather obey God then men’.
Christ, the supreme authority
Jesus-Christ came to earth to redeem mankind at the cost of His own life. He remained obedient to the Father who sent Him in all things and even at the toughest time of His ministry on earth he did not turn away from His assignment, but instead prayed saying: “… Not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).
This is what Philippians 2:5-11 says about the obedience of Christ to the Father:
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.
Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.