Two young men walked up a hill carrying burdens made of wood. Both were called to sacrifice themselves. Both of them needed to accept the will of their father. And both of these young men gave their lives willingly into their fathers’ hands. The 1,800 years that separated the two young men did not change the nature or intensity of submitting their wills to their authorities. Thousands of years after the sacrificial lives of both Isaac and our Lord Jesus, we struggle in the battle of the human nature versus the authorities placed over us.
In a perfect world with perfect relationships, respect for authority would simply be an automatic action— an unconscious attitude. But because sin permeates our world, we live in a grossly imperfect environment. Our very nature is sinful, and our flesh wants to rebel against every authority in our lives. The only way to address this basic need of man, is to have our hearts washed in the blood of Christ. This is the only premise upon which we can develop a biblical respect for authority. Authority is a broad term that includes God, parents, church leaders, and government officials. However, we will focus specifically on developing and maintaining respect for parents; the principles that help us to respect our parents are the same principles that will guide our respect to the other authorities in our life.
“Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, to speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men” (Titus 3:1, 2). These verses beautifully sketch a picture of a mature youth that is willing to sacrifice his own will to the will of his authorities. every day we are confronted with respect-related dilemmas that demand a response. What will I decide? To not decide is to passively slide into indifferent rebellion. respect is not a default attitude; it is a choice that we must deliberately make. How can a God-fearing youth develop a healthy respect for the authorities in his or her life?
First, a youth must seek to understand. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:9). Young people must understand that all authorities are ordained of God, that God is in control, and that He wants what is best for us. Once we have comprehended that the authority structure over us has been carefully crafted by God’s omniscience, it helps us see the larger picture of God’s plan for our lives. Our parents are not products of random selection to whom you are obligated to begrudgingly obey. Not at all! Instead, God has carefully appointed authorities in our lives who will mold us into a Christ-like person whom He can use in His kingdom! Only after Jesus and Isaac committed their wills to God could they willingly lay their lives on their Fathers’ altars. Understanding God’s plan for authority in our lives is the beginning of respecting them. Some people understand the place of authority perfectly, but they refuse to accept it. These sad souls go through life chafing under the very protection that God has granted to them. We must accept that our parental authorities are not perfect. Parents have the same human nature everyone else does, and they are just as prone to failure. Often youth, in their idealistic ideology, hold their superiors to a higher standard than they themselves are willing to be held. The Bible distinctly denounces this critical attitude in Titus 3 when it says, “be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men.” In other words, instead of being confrontational with the authorities in your life, be patient and understanding with them.
But to only accept parental authority is still not enough – you must also love them. “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matt. 22:39). In our youth one of our closest “neighbors” is our parents. Christian love is not conditional. It does not judge the recipient before it is bestowed. The Bible calls us to love whether our neighbor is an up-standing Christian or whether he is living in the depths of sin. God is calling us to love them with the same love that He radiated to us while we “were dead in trespasses and sins.” Genuine love is not static. Love is the agent that moves respect from inner thoughts to trust-building actions.
Trust is a difficult concept for youth to grasp. We tend to think that trust means independence and freedom from parental oversight. This is a misconception. To understand trust, picture a mountain climber repelling a sheer cliff. As he descends, he has absolute trust in his ropes and gear. Does that mean that he will never inspect his gear? You say, “Of course not!” And yet, in the same breath, we so often object to accountability, even when it is actually our authority’s responsibility to help us become a better person. Thank them for their interest and invite them to honestly evaluate our lives.
Trust is built through communication. Young person, talk to your parents. Tell them your plans. Tell them when you will get home from an activity. Ask their advice. Share your dreams and aspirations. Parents are your most valuable asset in filtering your noble aspirations from your immature impulses. Your godly parents care about you more than probably any other person on earth. make use of their interest!
Maybe you are reading this, and you are thinking, “That’s all easy to say, but my parents don’t care. They don’t really deserve respect. Does this still apply to me?” Maybe you have tried to build trust over and over, but every time it is shattered. Is it ever okay not to trust? Is it okay to stop communicating and instead build a self-protective wall between you and your authorities? If you are struggling to accept and respect your authorities, read the accounts of David’s interactions with King Saul. King Saul was a bitter, jealous, wicked, manipulative, angry authority in David’s life. But David never lost his respect for Saul. Even in Saul’s most deplorable moments, David gave him respect. That principle must reign in our life: respect authorities based on who they are – not on how they live.
Instead of becoming bitter, David focused on building a relationship with God. In confidence, he could offer his trustworthy life as a sacrifice to even the most corrupt of authorities. He always gave his authorities another chance. What a beautiful example! Sometimes, this openness can open doors that we once thought were forever closed. When we do our part, we can begin to build a bridge that will lead us closer to our parents. As both men plodded up the dusty path, they headed toward the most difficult test of their lives. But they pressed on with confidence. They had followed their Fathers’ will, and now they both felt their Fathers’ presence. They knew that they would be victorious in the end.
~Peach Bottom, PA