Sunday, November 8, 2020

Should I submit to Authorities that are not acting Biblically?

1.   If the Bible tells us to submit to authority, what do I do if there are multiple authorities over me that conflict with one another? What do I do if the authority over me is placing me in a position to act unbiblically?

 This is an incredibly important topic to talk about, the topic of submission to authority.  How do we do that in a biblical manner?  What do we do in situations when there are multiple authorities? How does it all fit together? Where is the line where we no longer submit to authority.

Thankfully this is an issue that the Bible has a wealth of information about. The Bible deals with submission constantly throughout the old and new testaments. So we’ll look at some of these key scriptures.

But I’ll just say this: submission is something we struggle with in the western world, particularly in the united states. Our culture has taught us that submission is a bad thing.  And we’re Americans right, we don’t submit to anybody, we overthrew the British, and so on and so forth, we don’t like submitting to authorities, we like overthrowing them.  And maybe that’s why we have so much turmoil in our lives, because we aren’t willing to submit to authorities.  But that begs the question, do we submit to totally corrupt authorities?

Do we submit to authorities that are doing unbiblical things?

Our natural response to authority is rebellion. That’s why children throw a tantrum when mommy and daddy give them a word of correction. It happens the same with adults, we blow up, run away, or get upset, or quietly boil in secret. And we rebel.

The problem is many of us have been hurt by people in authority. So we have a hard time submitting ourselves to authority.  We’re hurt, we’re in pain, we lack any sort of trust, and that makes it very hard.  But we can get through those pains and learn to submit.

So what does it mean to submit ourselves?  What is submission?  Let’s look at Noah Websters 1828 dictionary, he felt God had called him to put together a dictionary.  It says this, “SUBMIS'SION, noun [Latin submissio, from submitto.]

1. The act of submitting; the act of yielding to power or authority;

"Yielding ourselves to an authority to a superior without murmuring, without holding resentment.  Entire and cheerful submission to the will of God. Yielding to the powers over us.  Surrender to the power and or control of a government, or another." Very interesting.

Let’s look at a scripture, the most famous from Romans 13:1-5: “All of you must obey the government rulers. Everyone who rules was given the power to rule by God. And all those who rule now were given that power by God. So anyone who is against the government is really against something God has commanded. Those who are against the government bring punishment on themselves. People who do right don’t have to fear the rulers. But those who do wrong must fear them. Do you want to be free from fearing them? Then do only what is right, and they will praise you.

Rulers are God’s servants to help you. But if you do wrong, you have reason to be afraid. They have the power to punish, and they will use it. They are God’s servants to punish those who do wrong. So you must obey the government, not just because you might be punished, but because you know it is the right thing to do.

Paul wrote this letter to the Christians in Rome.  And Paul is completely aware of how the Roman society is absolutely persecuting Christianity. They are martyring Christians. They are killing them. They are insisting Christians worship the emperor as God and when they refuse, they kill them.  Do we submit to authorities that are acting in unbiblical ways? Absolutely, 100%. Without a doubt.  We actively submit to authorities, respect authorities, but in the area where they are trying to force us worship not God but something else, we respectfully refuse. But the Roman empire was in many ways an evil empire, they spread their empire through brutal conquest, slavery was policy in Rome, but there was no rebellion from the Christians then, they submitted to that authority in all areas. But in the area of the state trying to force them to worship the emperor, they politely refused.  And they were killed for it.  They didn’t pull swords and start a rebellion. They died in the arena.

So that is our level of submission as Christians to the government authorities.  We submit. But we also speak up, respectfully, for the truth.  We share the gospel with others.  If there are mechanisms by which we can influence society toward the good, we do that.  But we radically submit to government. We pay our taxes. We do our part.  We love our neighbors.

What about submission to our church leaders?  All of you here are under my authority as your spiritual leader here.  You’re also under the authority of the leaders here. Me, I’m under the authority of Flint Area Command.  I’m also under the authority to my divisional headquarters in Southfield.  And additionally, I’m under the authority of Central Territory headquarters in Chicago. And all together we’re under the authority of the Salvation Army National and International headquarters.  And IHQ, central territory, divisional headquarters, and Owosso corps, myself, and us, are under the authority of God almighty.  So we should practice submission to each of these authorities.  Respecting these authorities, listening to these authorities, and treating these authorities with love, respect, and submission to their authority.  I know, we don’t like this.  Why? We’re rebels. But rebelling is Satan’s thing. Are you a child of Satan or a child of God?  Children of God submit. This is really a pride issue.  Pride is Satan’s favorite sin.  Let go of your pride.  Pride is nothing.  Jesus didn’t allow pride to get in the way of his submission to the Father.  He submitted to the cross. He allowed it to happen, he allowed himself to be mistreated. He did not strike back.  HE allowed himself to be mocked, spit on, and murdered, he loved and prayed for those who struck him down.  That’s our model. And if you don’t like that, ask yourself, am I in the sin of pride?  Radical submission is hard.  It feels lowly, it doesn’t feel that great.  It humbles us.  But it’s biblical.

Let’s look at some other scriptures.

Hebrews 13:17 ESV “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”

This scripture refers to submission to spiritual leaders.  Don’t make your leaders life harder. Some of you have made my job harder.  You’ve made me groan at times, when I wanted to have joy.  And that hurts.  It’s better if your leaders have joy, not groaning. 

Other scirptures to take a look at include the following: ephesians 5:21-24, 1st peter 5:5-6, philippians 2:3-8, 1st Peter 2:13-14, and Titus 3:1.

But to address specifically the two questions raised.  What if you have two authorities over you, one that says one thing, one that says another. Well, in that case you should obey the higher authority, which one has greater authority? Obey the individual that has greater authority, assuming this does not upset your ability to walk with Christ.  There’s a biblical principle, don’t dispute over things uncertain things, from Romans 14:1. If it’s a gray area, an area of open debate, where it’s not specific, don’t dispute over it.  Submit to the authority.  We like to think we know best, often times we don’t.   But you should not submit to authority, if they are saying something clearly in contradiction to the gospel.  If my headquarters called and said, you can’t talk about Jesus anymore.  I’m now in a situation where as a Christian, I can’t submit to that authority.  If my headquarters called and said Jesus didn’t rise from the dead.  You can talk about Jesus just not the fact that he rose from the dead, I’m not in a situation where I can’t submit to my authority in that area.  I can submit to them in every other area, but I must politely refuse in that area. 

Second question really connects to this as well, What if the authority above me is putting me in a position to do something that is not biblical?  Once again this has to be situational.  If my pastor is telling me that I can’t preach to a certain group, the gospel isn’t for them. I’m gonna submit to my pastor in all things, but since I know the gospel is for everyone, I’m not going to submit to that authority in that situation.  If my pastor says you can’t talk about spiritual gifts, or the fruits of the spirit, well, there’s a problem there, these are biblical issues, I’ve got to speak up about those things, and I will. But I will continue to submit to that authority, not be in rebellion against them, or get all outraged and demand they resign or something, but I will disobey what they are saying, and continue to teach on biblical truth.  Now, what if it’s a gray area thing, my pastor is an Arminian, but I’m Calvinist, or my pastor is a Calvinist and I’m an Arminian, do I insist on my way? No.  What if I prefer guitar worship but my leader prefers brass bands or organ playing?  This isn’t a biblical issue.  What if my pastor engages in spiritual discipline with another congregation member that I don’t like?  That’s not really my area of concern. It’s not a biblical issue.  It’s my own opinion.  And in most of these cases I need to submit to my authority with joy about it. That’s the word I give on that.

My headquarters, my area command, and so on, make decisions all the time that I don’t like, or I think to myself, I wouldn’t do it that way.  I wouldn’t choose that organization to work with. I wouldn’t use that slogan. I wouldn’t focus so much on this area of justice ministry. I don’t like that national headquarters does advertising in this way.  I don’t like the rule that we have here for advisory council or our rules  and policies for managing donations.  To me I tell myself, tough luck dude.  Submit to your authority and do it with a smile.  Because I don’t know everything, maybe they are right, and guess what maybe they are wrong, and in that case, that they are wrong, it doesn’t matter. I still need to submit. 

But if I dug in enough, played around with theology enough I could find a way to say something is not biblical, well if you look at this subsection of our policies on hiring in subsection b 12 we do this practice, and this violates this biblical principle, therefore I need to throw a fit, and quit, and leave the church.  Avoid that kind of thing.  If there really is some huge issue, God will bring it before you, but don’t search deep down to find some way to say this is unbiblical. That’s source is a rebellious spirit.  And I’ve seen it before. I’ve had this mentality. The first time my leader makes a mistake, the first time I have an argument with anyone at the church, I quit, I’ll go to another church. They call that church hopping. If we run whenever we have conflict or disagreement we’ll be running our whole lives.  But if we can submit to our authorities, and not dispute over debatable areas, we will be biblically submitting to our leaders, to one another, and most importantly to God.  There are no lone wolfs in the kingdom of God, we’re all part of messy structures that are challenging to hang with. But it’s worth it.  I promise you that.