We address this article to a culture that is long on equality, personal rights, and democracy, and short on the wisdom of obedience and submission to authority. Far from being immune to the problem, Christianity in the West seems hopelessly mired in these same misguided ideals. We live in a culture where attempted answers merely multiply the problems.
Recently, I asked a few jail inmates for a one-word description of sin. Their answers: drugs, alcoholism, lust, sexual immorality. Not a bad description. I didn’t expect such a stark admission of sins that strike so close to home.
But there is a deeper reason for raising the issue. The Garden of Eden had every kind of good tree needed for food. Yet, through the tempter, Eve came up with three logical reasons to eat of the only forbidden tree in the whole place: 1. Good for food. 2. Pleasant to look at. 3. Desirable to make one wise. She bartered the wisdom of the Creator for the “better” offer of wisdom from fruit. (This sort of bad logic is on a par with atheists and evolutionary scientists who gaze deeply into old fossil bones in search of non-existent evidence that God doesn’t exist). Then, in a single act of disobedience, Eve (with her husband, Adam) forfeited not only divine wisdom, but the place of peace and security under the protective shadow of the Almighty.
Obedience would have saved them. Logic apart from God, could not and never will. God did not demand that they understand. He did ask that they obey. Thus the greater definition of sin: sin is the transgression of the law of God. It is the claim that I know better than God. This is arrogance on the level of a three-year-old demanding equality with his parents.
I suppose that many “Christians” give grudging assent to the concept that the Bible should be believed and obeyed, though there is little evidence that it actually happens on any wide scale. For many, who live in the darkened corridors of lying, cheating, or committing adultery, the transgression of Adam and Eve would hardly amount to a blip on the radar screen of conscience. Yet that single transgression brought sin into a perfect world and, death by sin, upon all men.
The testimony of Scripture is clear. Apart from obedience, and thus the transmission of grace and peace from God, there is no relationship with God. The plea of Jesus is clear: Why do you call me Lord, and do not the things that I say? And in another place: If you love me, keep my commandments. What is the difference between the wise man who built his house upon a rock, versus the foolish man who built his house upon the sand? The foolish man heard the Word of God, but didn’t do it, while the wise man heard and did the will of the Father in heaven. Thus, hope of heaven is the exclusive domain of those who hear the Word of God and do it. To the many who profess to know God, yet have not submitted their lives to obedience, Jesus says, “depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”
Perhaps we would concede that God is to be obeyed. But we tend to forget that the authority of God is over us every day in very practical ways. Father and mother are God’s authority. The husband is God’s authority over the wife. Presidents and kings are God’s authority over nations. The boss at work is God’s authority. The sheriff and the highway patrolman are God’s authority. Church leaders are God’s authority. By now, I suppose, many either cringe or mock. Or, maybe we could consider their authority so long as these authorities are of good character, and so long as the instructions given are reasonable, and are pleasant to the eyes (Genesis 3:6), good for food, or desired to make one wise. But submission is not based on whether authority is agreeable to us. It is measured on whether we are agreeable to authority.
Those who dwell in divine wisdom know when obedience to human authority would lead into sin. As a Jewish captive in Babylon, Daniel knew that King Nebuchadnezzar’s meat and wine would defile his conscience. Thus he refused it. Later under Darius, he knew full well that faithful worship of God was the path to the lion’s den. But in the very need to disobey, he did not reject the authority of his kings. Instead, we encounter Daniel building a truly caring, respectful relationship with both of these kings. There is no other way these pagan kings would have been led to worship and acknowledge the God of heaven. May we carry the same Biblical principles into our relationships to authority.
As a culture we are ever bombarded with the supposed wisdom of forbidden fruit. While the west is focused on the “rights” of democracy and freedom, the very institutions of democracy are being undermined. The greatness of a nation is not defined by voting rights and individualism, but by integrity, respect for others, and godliness In fact, democracy is more dependent on personal integrity and righteousness of her people, than is any other form of government. What we are seeing today is that the ideal conditions of our nation and culture are eroding and headed to collapse under the weight of moral failures, inherent in sin and disobedience.
Rebellion is always the path of sin. Its energy is wasted in confusion, destruction, and division. Subjection to authority is unifying and constructive. It reveals the Spirit of Jesus Christ and magnifies our God. Too many think of subjection as the function of weak character. The opposite is true. It is meek character. The lives of the greatest of men, such as Noah and Moses, were marked with following God’s instructions exactly.
God would spare us with repentance, and with a return to glory in the wisdom of His Word, obedience to His commands, and reverence and respect toward all authority.
-by Lester Troyer