Submitting to authority…even when we don’t want to

“Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” ~ Romans 13:1 NIV

A close friend of mine recently contacted me venting about her frustrations of the company she is working for. She shared that almost every night after work, she comes home and cries. To make matters worse, her boss is immature and rude. As she was telling me this, I could understand her frustration. I wanted to tell her to confront her boss about the problems going on. However, at the same time, I have to take into account the culture difference—if that is acceptable or not—since she is from another country. In addition, I don’t know the whole situation and cannot take any sides. Instead, I shared with her the Romans 13 passage.

As humans, both uncontrollable and inconsistent, we need to be governed. Without authority, there is no organization and stability. We have authority in our lives for a reason. Unfortunately, it’s easy to hate authority and even refuse to obey. But if we question the purpose of authority, we question why God has it in the first place. The second verse of Romans 13 says, “Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves” (NIV).

So now that we are aware that God instituted authority, we are now required to submit to it. Although our parents are not perfect people, the Lord still commands us to “honor them” (Exodus 20:12). For our boss at work…well, I cannot tell my friend how she should treat her boss. But what I can remind her is that we are not here to work for people but for the Lord. Colossians 3:23 says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” (NIV).

I remember a time when I was staying up late working almost all day grading papers for all of the students I was teaching. I reached a point where I couldn’t take it anymore. I was so frustrated for my boss having me do all this work alone since I was the only native English teacher at the time. Then the Lord led me to this verse and all the frustration vanished. When I began to imagine me doing this work for God, I felt such joy. Doing what my boss told me to do was not me obeying my boss but obeying God. I would work for the Lord any day. And if I would work for the Lord any day, then I must submit to the authority He has placed in my life.

If God instituted authority, then we are to submit to authority. If we submit to authority, our authority notices our respect for them. If the authority notices that, the people around us will too. 1 Peter 2:13-25 is another example of submitting to authority. “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king” (NIV).

Remember, we are doing this for the “Lord’s sake” because it is “God’s will.” If we “fear God” we must “live as servants.” Even if our boss is not a believer and is a horrible example in the workplace, you be the example to follow because of your fear of the Lord.

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