Rules, Take 1

28 Sep

I don’t like rules very much. From balking at the “right” of the government to tell me how I need to take care of myself in a car or how I need to take care of my family’s medical bills to the “inane” rules about graded material in my children’s school or my ability to question said determinations as a parent, I find myself anxious to fight those that want to put themselves in authority over me. It is a difficult thing to allow someone else’s will to take priority over mine. What this says about me as a professional is another discussion, but what it says about me as a Christian is this discussion.

First, it is undeniable that we are commanded to obey authority, as every authority set before us is there because God put it there (Romans 13 tells me so). While we are clearly called to make our church leaders jobs joyful, I’m not sure how far that extends to others placed in our path. Are we, for example, supposed to Honor the President to the degree that his job would be joyful? If so, does the test continue to our children’s teachers, police officers with radar guns, parents with unwieldy requirements, or building inspectors with a vendetta?

Honoring is difficult on two fronts. First, I think it would be hard to agree with any elected official on every issue that comes up. We have a right in this country to speak out against those things with which we disagree. Nevertheless, Never confuse your right to do something with doing the right thing.

Second, at least some of the things that are done by various elected officials (the President, in our example) are against our interpretations of the mandates of Scripture. Many people leave churches where they disagree with interpretation of Scripture, and while one could theoretically continually move to another country, that is impractical or impossible for most, even if they could find a country whose leaders they mirror their own scriptural interpretation (those leaders would eventually be replaced with someone who may not anyway). Therefore, people are required to exist under the authority of those with whom they differ!

I think at least part of this is training for our Christian lives. If we, for example, learn to live with a city planner who wants to tear down our house, we should be better equipped to serve in a church that requires someone to work in the nursery. Even more, it gives authenticity to our Christian witness. If we can live with governors who attempt to silence our witness, we can certainly live with leaders who want us to keep our debates about Supralapsarianism out of the public forum (incidentally, you should keep your lapsarian preferences largely private, as the discussion itself is of minimal profit). And, in so doing, we can live above the fray and bless those who are persecuting us in a way that brings honor and glory to our God.

Nevertheless, there are times to speak out, whether or not the law allows. Fortunately, our law allows us to speak out! But I think we should be careful not to confuse personal preference to legitimate sin. We’ve all met those who confuse their own preference in music style with Scriptural mandate (this isn’t to say the Bible is silent on issues of music, because it isn’t). We don’t want to do the same thing with laws. While I have a readily robust feeling on what government SHOULD do, I can’t equate that opinion to Biblical proportions of authority. On the other hand, there are times where the government makes a stand that is completely contrary to allowable interpretation, like abortion.

The very thing that makes abortion such an atrocity, that we were designed with a dignity as humans, makes the leaders who perpetrate these atrocities worthy of honor also. Not to sound too much like Jefferson Bethke, but we are trained to make enemies. We often let our feeling of their incorrectness substitute for our belief that they should be eliminated as humans themselves (or at least put in a vegetative state) so that God’s work can be done. Ah, but there’s the rub. If we truly believe God is in control (and aren’t just giving it lip-service), must we not conclude that God’s work is being done through these evil leaders?

I am suggesting that we should state our disagreement very strongly. Yet, in so doing, we must still honor those evil men and women who allow the murder of babies to occur. This is a difficult line to walk, but I think it is still a part of what we must do. As much as we can, we should honor our leaders. At the same time, we need to be able to speak into their lives. We are fortunate that someone did this for us, as we would otherwise be ambling about in our depravity. We cannot learn if someone doesn’t present us with an opposing opinion. Usually, an opinion in love is more persuasive, though I will not try to move those of you who believe in delivering any message with proper force.

So, when there are rules with which we disagree, we need to present clear, logical arguments to those in authority, so that we may persuade them. This means our objections must be well thought out and analyzed in our own minds. Therefore, we must ourselves be well-informed; likely, even study those with opposing viewpoints. All of this just to honor those God puts in authority over us? Unfortunately, yes. Which means people like me who naturally resist rules may just be in for a lifetime of study, or perhaps we could just learn, as Paul did, more contentment.

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