Go Ahead, Try Me: A Rebel’s View on Authority

Last week my husband came to me regarding an issue at work. Being a respectful rule-follower, he told me his conundrum and wondered if he had done the right thing or not.
I laughed, “I’m not the person to be asking.”
He has a strong sense of right and wrong and operates out of conviction, but sees the merit of following authority even if the authority figures are deluded. Me? Not as much.
He advocated for following the leadership’s directions.
“Yeah, even if the rules are wrong?” I asked.

I know his way of acquiescence is probably better–and the reason he’s had fewer jobs than me–but in my mind, following stupidity makes me a willing accomplice.

Herein lies the difference between my husband and me: peacemaker vs. troublemaker. After all, asking for forgiveness (if necessary) is easier than asking for permission.

And then I re-read something this week out of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” He quotes Saint Augustine halfway through the letter when he says, “An unjust law is no law at all” and I had my “Hello, yes!” moment.

I willingly submit to authority, if the person (or place) exemplifies character and common sense, or if the price of rebellion is more than I’m willing to pay. But, if the command comes from ignorance or the prerogative of a two-faced, menopausal lunatic, than I’m out of there.  (That reason alone is why I’ve quit two different jobs.)  In college, I deferred to the jurisdiction of the professor. If I got lesser grades, I acknowledged my mess-ups and tried to learn from my mistakes. Aside from one time.  A new professor landed on the scene, and no one much liked him–not because he was too demanding (I had other professors that were harder)–because he didn’t apply sound logic and reveled in the reader’s interpretation of a text as opposed to the author’s intent. His ability to conjure up his own analysis based on nothing substantial drove me crazy. And then when he gave me a ‘D’ on an essay (the only D I had ever received), I politely and directly told him he had better explain. My grade came with one brief comment at the end and nothing else to indicate his disagreement with my analysis.  My work supervisor (also an English professor) helped me rework my essay, but told me it certainly merited a much higher grade. I had researched and supported my position; his position was only undergirded by his title of professor and his flimsy opinion.

When I see people in commanding roles lead with arrogance and ignorance, I want to scream “foul” and stick it to the man. After all, if you are in a position of control, you should use your power to promote truth and the well-being of others. But all too often, bosses, leaders, teachers, etc. become intoxicated by the influence they wield and start swinging their weapon willy-nilly. If that happens, my respect drops to zero and I walk away, “You are on your own, buddy.”

Then I step back from the platform and recognize my filter. Following Christ sometimes requires me to lay down my rights. Yes, He may encourage my convictions into public demonstrations (like Martin Luther King, Jr.), but He may ask me to take up my cross and turn the other cheek on the malicious nonsense of living in our backwards culture. I may be unjustly accused. I may be mocked, shamed, or even fired. Even if I stand on the higher ground of what’s right and true, people are watching how I respond to the idiot in the bigger office. They are watching to see if I will submit when I could rebel.

And then I read I Peter 2:17-18 and I’m knocked to my feet! “Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king. Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable.”(emphasis mine).  What in the world? Really, God? Really?

Titus 3:1-3 “Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men. For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.”

Jesus had every right in the world. He had every moral high ground. Every gained understanding and truth. He never did anything wrong or malicious, and yet, He was accused, accosted and aligned with heretics.

One day God will right all wrongs and my injustices will be validated, but in the in-between time, humility is what draws me closer to the Holy Spirit, not prideful rebellion (I Peter 5:5). Speaking up for truth, speaking out for justice is encouraged in Scripture, as long as our motivation is God’s glory and other’s freedom–not our own sense of legitimacy.

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