In an interview aired on May 19, former President Richard M. Nixon declared that when he was in the White House, he had inherent power to order burglaries, eavesdropping or other illegal conduct against American dissidents. He said, “when a President does it, that means that it is not illegal”. In other words, whatever a President does is, by definition, legal.
When we as Christians hear about things like this, we may be justly horrified. Well we know that no person, no matter what his office or position has the right to say that what he does is legal by definition thereby implying that he is the final authority. There is no authority apart from God. He is the final authority. He is authority not only by His very nature but also because He is Lord and Creator of all.
God confers authority to man through Christ. No person has the right to use this God-given authority for his own end, rather he must use it only for God’s glory. But regardless of whether or not someone in authority uses that authority correctly, he must still be respected. Why? Because God places people in positions of authority over us. In the Heidelberg Catechism we read of the fifth commandment that it requires that “I show all honor, love, and fidelity to my father and mother, and all in authority over me, and submit myself to their good instruction and correction, with due obedience: and also bear with their weaknesses and infirmities, since it pleases God to govern us by their hand’’.
It is not our place to determine whether or not those in authority are worthy of our respect. God commands us to respect them and as long as they are over us, we owe them our respect for His sake.
“Why am I bothering to read this article? I might need a little reminder now and then, but really I know the Bible says I have to respect and obey those in authority. I know what the fifth commandment requires of me. After all, how many times haven’t I heard sermons on the Heidelberg Catechism? I think the minister just preached on that one not too long ago.”
But wait a minute. Do we really know what is required of us or is our knowledge merely intellectual head knowledge?
Covenant parents have the awesome responsibility of bringing up their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. They set up and maintain schools to help them in carrying out this responsibility. Covenant children coming from homes with God-fearing parents are expected to show respect to all those in authority over them. But, what is expected will not be reality if children hear parents, babysitters, or anyone who cares for them speaking negatively or with any hint of disrespect about those in positions of authority whether it be the government, church, or school. It is in this way that they plant the seed of disrespect for authority which, if not stopped soon, grows into disrespect for authority in every sphere of life.
Children, especially young children, are great imitators. They learn much from listening to and watching others. Often actions speak to them much louder than words. They can see whether their parents actually respect authority by the way they react to what is said by a president, policeman, teacher, minister or anyone with whom they come into contact.
As young people, we also should watch what we say and how we say it. Often we can say something which may sound harmless but one look at the facial expression accompanying it quickly reveals an attitude of disrespect.
We must honor our father and mother and all in authority over us because in doing so, we give honor and glory to Jehovah our God who has taken us out of the bondage of sin and death to make us along with our parents His own chosen people.