My husband was working as an intern at a large church, but we were planning to move to seminary soon. I was teaching in a public school, hoping that once my husband was through seminary and on staff at a church, I would be able to quit my job and we could start a family. But a wrench was thrown into our perfect plan. The church we were at offered my husband a full-time ministry position. The problem was that my husband also had aspirations for a doctoral degree, and we had planned to move to Kentucky for schooling.
I knew full-well that my call as a wife was to submit to my husband. That had never been a problem. That is, until he no longer wanted what I wanted. I knew what the Bible said. And that’s what brought me so much fear and anxiety. Sadly, I dealt with my misplaced feelings through a lot of tears and whining. The amount of time we were not on the same page was probably only a couple weeks, but the intensity of the decision made it feel like an eternity.
“Have It Your Way” Culture
In our own sinful, independent spirit we think we know better. We are a society that claims rights. As Burger King coined it so well, we like people to tell us “have it your way.” So the idea of acquiescing to someone else rubs most of us the wrong way. Without a Godward focus and remembering the commands of his word, we can easily be swept into the world’s way of claiming our rights and insisting on our own way, no matter what the cost.
Yet the Bible gives us clear guidelines on the structure of authority in our lives. All of us are under the authority of someone else — whether it be a boss at work, government officials, church elders, parents, or your husband. And God has made it very clear what we are to do: “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution . . .” (1 Peter 2:13), unless the authority is asking you to sin. God has set up a structure of authority for our own good and protection. And even when our authorities don’t seem to be making the best decision in our eyes, the call to submit is still the same.
This is not to say we can’t respectfully disagree.
We’ve told our children if they disagree with a decision we’re making, they can make a respectful appeal, one time. But after we have heard them out and make a final decision, we don’t want to hear any more about it. No ifs, ands or buts. Complaining is done. They need to step back and trust that as their parents, we are trying to make the best decision possible for everyone involved.
So why is that so hard to do? Why do we often succumb to grumbling and complaining?
The Ultimate Authority
The ultimate question really is not, “Can I trust the person in authority over me,” but, “Am I trusting that God is leading this person to lead me?” Yes, people are fallible, but God is infallible. He never makes mistakes. He establishes rulers and kingdoms. He is the beginning and the end, the Alpha and the Omega. And he has put those bosses, elders, parents and husbands in the positions of authority they are in. Nothing takes him by surprise. And he can be trusted.
When I am whining and complaining to others about a “bad” decision someone in authority over me made, I am really whining and complaining about God. I’m not trusting God’s ordained leadership, and telling him that I have a better plan. And God does not take that lightly. “Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment” (Romans 13:2).
How we respond to difficult decisions made by the leadership over us is a test of Christian maturity. We can choose to humbly submit or make a respectful appeal, or we can choose to grumble, gossip, and slander the very leaders God has sovereignly placed in our lives.
Here are a few ways to move toward keeping a God-centered perspective on submission to authorities in our lives.
1) Recognize God’s authority structure as revealed in Scripture.
“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.” (Romans 13:1)
2. Pray for the leaders God has placed over you.
“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” (1 Timothy 2:1–2)
3. Repent of any grumbling in your own heart.
“Do all things without grumbling or disputing.” (Philippians 2:14)
4. Pray for a posture of submission and respect to those in authority over you.
Give grace to those who have a different opinion than yourself, asking God to give you a respectful heart.
“Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution . . . .” (1 Peter 2:13)
5. Guard your tongue from complaining, gossip or slander.
“Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.” (Proverbs 13:3)
6. Look for ways to speak well of those in authority over you, even if you don’t agree with their decision.
“Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.” (Titus 3:1–2)
7. Find ways to come alongside your leaders, encouraging and helping them in the weighty task they’ve been given.
“I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you- that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.” (Romans 1:11–12)
Remember that the world is watching as we deal with those who have different opinions than ourselves, especially those who are in places of authority over us. Will others be drawn to the gospel or moved further away as they watch the conduct of our lives and hear the words that flow from our mouths? Let’s pass the test of Christian maturity by respecting God’s perfect design for order in our lives.
This article was first published at DesiringGod.org on May 23, 2016