Summary: Christian parents need to model and teach what it means to respect authority.
The Bible makes it clear that showing respect for authority is to be a priority for the child of God.
"Everyone 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. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves."
- Romans 13:1-2 (NIV)
Whether it be secular authority or spiritual authority, Christians are to value authority and respect those in authority. Let’s take a look at what Peter says to us about valuing authority.
1. The responsibility of those in authority - vs. 13-14
Those in positions of authority are sent by God to punish those who do wrong and commend those who do right.
A. The primary responsibility of secular authorities -
Those in positions of secular authority fulfill this role through enacting and enforcing just laws that protect law abiding citizens and punish law breaking citizens. Where would we be without those in positions of secular authority?
The Book of Judges ends with these words, "In those days there was no king," no law. And because there was no law, "every man did what was right in his own sight." Can you imagine a world like that? Just look at Los Angeles in 1992, or Miami in the 1980’s, or Watts in the 1960’s. Or how about Montreal, Canada, on Oct. 6, 1969?
On that day the Montreal police force went on strike. For 24 hours, Montreal, one of the larger cities of the world, was without law enforcement. That day was such a chaotic day that Canadians dubbed it "Black Tuesday." In a 24-hour period, one policeman & one burglar were murdered. Forty-nine people were injured or wounded. There were hold-ups & robberies. In total, over 1,000 store windows were broken as people looted stores, stealing stereos, televisions, radios, & clothes.
One man, dressed in a fine business suit was seen running down the street with a fur coat over each arm. While respectable citizens broke windows & stole merchandise from store fronts, thieves backed up to the back doors with trucks & hauled merchandise away by the truck loads.
Black Tuesday in Montreal, Canada, was a day of anarchy, of freedom from all restraints, because there was no authority, no enforcement of the law.
God uses secular authorities as a check upon man’s sinful desires and tendencies; they are a useful tool in resisting the effects of man’s fallen nature. The greatest offense government can make is to fail to punish evildoers, and to reward them through corruption.
B. The primary responsibility of spiritual authorities -
Those in positions of spiritual authority fulfill this role through proclaiming and upholding God’s truth in such a way as to hold God’s people accountable to the Word of God.
"Remember your leaders who first taught you the word of God. Think of all the good that has come from their lives, and trust the Lord as they do." - Hebrews 13:7 (NLT)
"Obey your spiritual leaders and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they know they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this joyfully and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit." - Hebrews 13:17 (NLT)
In commenting on verse 13, John Piper says, "Leaders ‘keep watch on behalf of your souls or for the sake of your souls.’ And to do that for your souls, they watch four things, not just one thing. They watch the word of God; they watch Christ; they watch their conduct; and they watch the people. In other words leaders are vigilant to be Biblical, Christ-centered, morally exemplary, and caring for the people."
One interesting point to make as well has to do with the meaning of the word "obey" in Hebrews 13:17. The Greek word is "peithesthe," which means "to be persuaded, to listen, to obey." In other words, what is described here is not blind obedience, but obedience after thoughtful consideration that results in a persuasion that this person is someone who is fulfilling their role as an authority. Those secular and spiritual authorities who fulfill their God-given roles should be honored and obeyed. But what about those who do not fulfill the responsibility God gave them?
"Whatever title men may hold, they are to be listened to only on the condition that they do not lead us away from obeying God. So we must examine all their traditions by the rule of the Word of God. We must obey princes and others who are in authority, but only in so far as they do not deny to God his rightful authority as the supreme King, Father, and Lord." - John Calvin