When I was a child, my mom forbade me from spending the night at any of my friend’s houses because I’d stay up all night eating junk food and watching scary movies I wasn’t supposed to. At the time, I thought she was being prudish and boring, but I submitted to her command for the simple reason that she’s my mom. It’s only now as an adult that I can see the wisdom in her parenting.
Examples like this one are what often come to mind when we think about submission and authority. We know that at one point we were young and stupid, we made our fair share of mistakes, and God placed people in our lives to help us out. However, I think God’s call for us to submit to authority extends even beyond that.
Over the last 10 years, I’ve served as a youth minister in several churches. At one of them, the leaders of the church commanded me to lead my youth group in a way that I (and many other people) considered to be wrong, both in method and goals. I struggled for months with both their instruction and their lack of respect for my convictions, before I finally submitted as best I could to the decision.
What I learned through that, and what I see repeated time and time again in Scripture, is submission to the authorities God has placed in our lives needs to happen regardless if we agree with them. We do it because of their position, not their cause. Even if we don’t realize that they’re right somehow or have a good relationship with them or even see the wisdom in their decision, we’re still called to submit to them. In doing so, we glorify God by trusting that He’s sovereignly placed them in authority over us.
Now, obviously, if an authority tells you to sin, don’t do it. No matter who they are, everyone placed above us is still ultimately subject to God. Also, it’s totally fine to respectfully ask questions to seek clarification and to make sure that your leaders have a full picture before they make a decision. In fact, if you can see some areas of improvement in a strategy or decision, it’s important that you let them know, giving them the greatest chance of success, even if they might ignore you.
With this all, the key is an attitude of obedience and honor toward the authorities in our life, knowing God has sovereignly placed them in their position. So because we trust Him, we can willingly listen to and obey them.
Don’t get me wrong — I’m well acquainted with the truth that submitting to authorities you disagree with is difficult and requires a lot of faith, prayer and humility. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten it 100-percent right, and it’ll probably be a long time until I come close. However, I believe that as we learn to obey God in this, we actually gain a greater understanding of our own relationship with Him. And in that submission, ultimately to God, we give over yet another part of our heart to Him, allowing deeper transformation and faith. That’s what I want for my life, and I hope you experience it, too.
What was the hardest decision you ever had to submit to?
Related post: “Things I Wish I’d Known: Intentionality”