Summary: Conflicts often arise when people forget who's in charge. So, who is in charge and how should we use that knowledge in how we respond to our earthly authorities?
OPEN: August 1994, as a Korean Air jet plane was landing it skidded across a rain soaked runway and rammed a safety barricade. There were 160 passengers on board and just before the plane exploded into flames they all escaped to safety. What was the cause of the accident? According to news reports, the pilot and the co-pilot had gotten into a fist fight…over who was in charge of the landing controls.
(The Best of Uncle John's Bathroom Reader)
Now, you’d have thought they’d have figured that out before they left the ground. But because they forgot who was in charge, they endangered their lives, the lives of their crew, the lives of their passengers, and they destroyed a fairly expensive piece of aircraft. All because they didn’t know who was in charge!
Conflict (many times) comes about because people forget who’s in charge. And in our text today God clears it all up for us.
“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.” Romans 13:1-5
Now, before we get too far into this sermon let’s ask a very basic question:
WHO’S IN CHARGE? (Answer: God is)
If I Trust God, and if God is charge then I must be willing to submit to the authorities over me. Why? Because God is bigger and badder than any authority of man.
But if I lose my trust in God - if I don’t look to Him for my deliverance, my temptation will be to grab the controls. My temptation will be to fight to have MY way.
ILLUS: Frankly, there isn’t an earthly ruler that would do everything the way I’d do it myself. My daddy used to say that the most efficient form of government was a benevolent dictatorship… and was willing to apply for the job. But aside from that, the chances of you being totally satisfied with the decisions of any earthly authority are slim.
II Peter 2:9-10 “…the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority. Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones”
Did you catch what God is saying there? God is bigger and badder than anything, and He knows how to rescue the godly from trials. We don’t have to panic… we don’t have to grab the controls. And we definitely don’t want to be like the unrighteous - because the unrighteous despise authority. If we forget that God is in charge… then we run the risk of crashing and burning.
God puts obedience to earthly authority on the same level as honoring Him. In Exodus 22:28 God declared “You shall not revile God, nor curse a ruler of your people.” He literally puts both concept on the same level playing field. God no more expects you to curse Him than He would expect you to curse your rulers.
ILLUS: In Acts 23 we read about Paul being arrested and brought before the Sanhedrin. Paul’s first statement to the group was to say: “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.” At which point the high priest Ananias commanded those who were next to him to strike him on the mouth. That doesn’t sit too well with Paul and he angrily says: “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Are you sitting to judge me according to the law, and yet contrary to the law you order me to be struck?”
At that point someone next to him says: “Would you revile God’s high priest?”
You can almost sense Paul backing up a step or two as he declares: “I did not know, brothers, that he was the high priest, for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.”’ Acts 23:3-5
Do not speak evil or curse the ruler of your people. What that means is – if you’re a Democrat you don’t curse Republican leaders. If you’re a Republican you don’t curse Democrat leaders. You don’t belittle them on Facebook, you don’t make fun of them around the water cooler at work and you don’t rejoice when they do stupid stuff (and we all know the leaders in the other party are more prone to do stupid stuff than the folks in the party you support).