For our high school and junior high youth group we watched Dead Poets Society on Sunday. We examined the film in terms of how we should respond to authority. Noting for example that Mr. Keating (Robin Williams) responded to authority by working from within the system. Some complied completely, some gave up, and the kid who had been meek throughout the film literally stood up to authority at the end and spoke truth to power.

What does Christianity have to say on the topic? The Last Week as recounted by Mark is all about questioning authority, even if it means you are killed by those authorities. And those authorities were not just the Romans, they were the church establishment. On the other hand, you have the lesson of the prophets that when you deviate from God’s law you will be punished. And, of course, our friend the Apostle Paul gives us this dandy:

Submission to the Authorities
1Everyone 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. 2Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. 4For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. 6This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

Rom. 13:1-7. And of course there were Christian abolitionists and Christians behind the Red Scare. How do you see the church: calling you to challenge authority or to submit to it?

2 replies on “Authority”

Interesting question. I suppose I struggle with when I have acted against authority in a time when it was a risk to me in some way. I can't think of an example. I think though I am called to question authority because it so often conflicts with what I feel led by my faith to do.

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