We live in rebellious times. Many people sit in judgment of those in authority over them, and they submit only when it is convenient, or they do so in fear of being caught. The Bible instructs us to pray for those in authority over us (see 1 Timothy 2:1-2) and to submit to governing authorities (see Romans 13:1-7). Rebelling against God and His established authority leaves us spiritually vulnerable. The only time God permits us to disobey earthly leaders is when they require us to do something morally wrong or attempt to rule outside the realm of their authority.
Areas where we are called to submit include (but are not limited to): Civil Government, Parents/Legal Guardians, Teachers, Coaches, School Officials, Employers, Church Leaders and God.
As I look back at my life, I’ve personally repented for my rebellious attitude against at least one person in all the above categories.
Right now in my life, though, I’m in a different circumstance. I’m the pastor of a church. Beyond submitting to the Civil Government, whom do I submit to now? If I submit to no one, I’m in trouble!
Obviously, I first and foremost submit to God. But the funny thing about submitting to God, especially as a pastor, is that I can fool myself into thinking that I’m submitting to God, when in reality I’m just doing whatever it is I want to do!
So the next step for me is submitting to my leadership team, which in our church is called the Admin Team. In fact, one of the first things I did when I answered the call (one year ago yesterday) was to give the entire team access to my personal calendar and instruct the team members that it was their duty to hold me accountable. But it’s an imperfect submission, because as the pastor, while I collaborate on virtually everything, I still am the sole person selecting what I preach, how I preach it, and how I counsel. In addition to that, every pastor is commissioned by God to protect the flock, and that sometimes requires those very rare instances where I would have to stand up like Gandalf against the Balrog in the mines of Moria and declare, “You cannot pass!”
I’ve been struggling with this for a couple of months! Who should I submit to? I can see my natural tendency to rebel! I desire to submit to God, but I never want to fool myself into thinking I’m submitting, while I’m really rebelling!
In the midst of my struggle, I found myself frustrated with some upcoming decisions that my denomination’s state convention will be voting on next week. These decisions aren’t evil, or ungodly . . . they’re just not what I think the best course of action is. As I prayed to have a submissive heart, God revealed my rebellion towards the state convention.
Thank God, I have a human institution above me that can keep me accountable! This doesn’t mean I won’t disagree or challenge decisions, but when the dust settles, I submit. You see, many people understand submitting to leadership as oppression (and it can be). But God’s purpose for submission in my life is not to oppress me, but to guard and guide me towards the sort of man both God and I want me to become.
So I submit because God calls me to, and I choose submission over rebellion so that one day, I don’t wake up and discover I became a man I never wanted to become.