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Honoring Authority

Honoring Authority

A Heartbreaking Interview

Several years ago I was interviewed on a live radio talk program of a popular Christian station in a large city in the South. We were discussing one of my books. Ten minutes into the radio interview the announcer took a break. During that time, I heard several commercials and announcements at a lower volume level since I was not actually on air during the break.

All of a sudden, my attention was gripped as I heard a man reporting the national weather. He told the audience of hundreds of thousands how it was so cold in one specific northern state that it froze the lips of the state’s governor. He named the governor and reported his lips were so frozen that he couldn’t open his mouth and say something stupid, as he normally did.

I was in shock; I couldn’t believe what I’d just heard. My thoughts wandered, Is this a Christian station? Certainly it’s not. Then I thought, If it is a Christian station, maybe this weather forecast was piped in from an Associated Press source. I couldn’t shake the impact of what I’d heard before the interviewer came back on.

Back on air he asked a vague question to which I responded by saying how important it was to have the heart of God in all we do.

My mind was still troubled by what I’d heard, and I said, “A good example would be what I just heard over the intermission.” I then asked, “Is this a Christian station?”

He responded, “Yes.”

“Well, maybe what I heard was piped in from a secular source because whoever was speaking did not have the heart of God in what was said a few minutes ago.”

He asked, “What are you referring to?”

I responded, “The announcement that made reference to freezing the governor’s mouth shut.”

The interviewer’s voice dropped to a disgusted tone, “That person was me.”

I said, “The Scripture says we are to fear God and honor the king or those in authority.”

He responded in a firmer voice, “Yeah, but there is nothing wrong with a little humor.”

I quickly added, “Not at the expense of what God tells us to honor. The apostle Paul said,

Do not speak evil about the ruler of your people. — Acts 23:5 NIV

He closed the live interview before its scheduled conclusion by saying, “Well, John and I don’t see eye to eye on everything.”

I hung up heartbroken. Was this honoring, revering, or venerating the governor? I can admit, this man he mentioned has not always conducted himself in a way deserving of respect, but he holds the office of governor. As Christians, we are to honor that position of authority. How many believers were affected by the irreverent humor? No wonder we’ve lost the respect of so many elements of society.

This is a far cry from the behavior of the early persecuted church. They honored authority. When we behave and speak in this manner, we add to the power of lawlessness at work today. Yet the Bible tells us,

For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. — 2 Thessalonians 2:7

This behavior wars against the restraining power of the Holy Spirit. It is the principle of Satan!

The Fear of the Lord Breeds Honor

“Fear God. Honor the king.”

Those who fear God are those who keep before them the Lord of glory’s high and lofty position. They have met with and been consumed by His far-reaching authority. They esteem what He esteems and hate what He hates. Firmly implanted within their lives are reverential fear and respect for all in leadership because God has delegated His authority.

A lack of the Spirit of the fear of the Lord is evident when we do not revere authority.

Remember Isaiah’s description of Jesus:

The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, The Spirit of counsel and might, The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord. His delight is in the fear of the Lord,

And He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes, Nor decide by the hearing of His ears. — Isaiah 11:2-3

Jesus’ delight is in the fear of the Lord. It enabled Him not to judge by natural sight or hearing. That radio host showed by his fruit he was not acquainted with the fear of Lord as it pertained to delegated authorities. Because the governor’s behavior had not been honorable, the radio host judged him by the hearing of the ear and the sight of the eye, and by these standards, the radio host could be considered accurate. However, if he had seen through the eyes of the fear of the Lord, he would have perceived the appointed authority upon the governor’s life.

To slander governmental authority is never an act of godliness.

John the Baptist dealt with the behavior of one in authority named Herod, yet his approach was much different from that of the interviewer. First, John told Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have her [your brother’s wife]” (Matthew 14:4). He spoke directly to a sin, not about him disrespectfully. Second, he dealt with Herod from his position of authority as a prophet of God. Last, John wasn’t making irreverent jokes about the king.

The only godly person you will find in the Bible making jokes about men who held a position of leadership is Elijah (1 Kings 18:27). He mocked the false prophets of Baal and Asherah, and the gods they represented. Those men, who did not possess true authority, but counterfeit, led many Israelites into darkness. Their positions were not ordained by God. They were not worthy of honor or submission. People who lead occult organizations are not to be submitted to or obeyed.

To return to true appointed authority, it is difficult to honor and obey when we do not see authority through eyes enlightened by the fear of the Lord. Yet hear what Scriptures say,

He [God] is especially hard on those who follow their own evil, lustful desires and who despise authority. These people are proud and arrogant, daring even to scoff at the glorious ones without so much as trembling. — 2 Peter 2:10 NLT

What is really sobering is that Peter and Jude were talking about those in church settings (Jude 12; 2 Peter 2:13-15).

It [may] be hard for some to receive because too often we view God’s kingdom through a democratic mind-set. That is why we are commanded to be renewed in the spirit of our minds (Ephesians 4:23). If the radio host’s mind-set was unique to him, I probably wouldn’t have mentioned it, yet this mind-set blankets the church.


The Heart to Honor Authority

A heart motive to honor authority should permeate our behavior, for we honor the Lord’s appointment.

Paul exhorted us,

For rulers are not to be feared by those who do good, but by those who do evil. Would you like to be unafraid of those in authority? Then do what is good, and they will praise you, because they are God’s servants working for your own good. But if you do evil, then be afraid of them, because their power to punish is real. They are God’s servants and carry out God’s punishment on those who do evil. For this reason you must obey the authorities — not just because of God’s punishment, but also as a matter of conscience. That is also why you pay taxes, because the authorities are working for God when they fulfil their duties. Pay, then, what you owe them; pay them your personal and property taxes, and show respect and honour for them all. — Romans 13:3-7 GNT

I was weight training in our local gym and got into a conversation with a man and woman who were in great physical shape. After talking for ten minutes I found out they were members of the Colorado Springs police force. Immediately I commented, “My respect for you both is enormous because the Bible states you are God’s servants!

The policeman’s face registered shock and amazement and he commented with excitement, “Dude, is that really true? The Bible says I’m one of God’s servants?”

I affirmed his question by showing him the preceding verses. He then said, “I’m going to tattoo those scriptures on my back!” Sure enough, a couple of weeks later I saw him in the gym and he pulled up his shirt and on his back was tattooed the above scripture. It had been a profound revelation to him.

This truth can’t be stressed enough in our day. God called those in authority His “servants,” and they are worthy to receive due honor and respect. I find this honor burning in my heart every time I see a policeman, fireman, mayor, councilman, governor, state legislator, judge, congressman, or some other person in a branch of government. I find respect welling up within me when I go to city, state, or federal offices. I have friends who are senators, when I see them I always greet them as “Senator” not by their first name. I want to show my respect for the position God has granted them. They are God’s ministers to serve His people.

Furthermore, notice in the above scripture that the authorities are “working for God” when they fulfill their duties. Think of it like this, if you are driving your vehicle fifteen miles over the speed limit and suddenly you see red lights flashing in your rearview mirror, don’t pray against the devil. The police are not working for the devil; rather, they are working for God! You should instead be praying for mercy!

I’ve received a few speeding tickets, and each time I have told the officer after receiving my ticket, “Sir, I was wrong, and I want to thank you for doing your job and serving our city. Please forgive me for my offense.” You should see their faces. One time the officer’s demeanor totally changed. He’d started out hard, but softened when he saw my respect for his authority. I thought at one point he was going to take the ticket back, although that was not my intent.

I have a friend who pastors in the state where the governor was dishonored by the radio station host. He was in prayer for his city, asking God how to really make a difference. At the time his church consisted of a small body of believers. God put it in his heart to honor the civil authorities of his city. After further prayer, he knew what to do. He and his leaders investigated the greatest needs of the city. They found out the fire department needed masks to enable the firefighters to see people through smoke, but the items weren’t included in their budget that year. The masks cost $25,000 each. That was a lot of money for a church their size.

The pastor shared the vision with his people, and in one offering they raised every bit of what was needed. He and the leaders of his church presented the check to the city. He shared with me, “John, you would be amazed the way this has ministered to the city officials. They could not believe a church would perform such an act of kindness. They were used to people griping about the needs of government, not giving freely toward them.”

Since then the church has exploded in growth. When the congregation dedicated a new building, many city officials attended, and some still attend. Compare this pastor’s fruit with that of the radio host.

I’ve heard numerous believers gripe about the taxes they pay. I’ve met people in churches who have figured out ways of not paying taxes. They claim it is their constitutional right. To them, I argue, “Your exhortation from God supersedes your supposed constitutional right. God says to ‘pay taxes.’” I then say to these people, “Who is paying for the roads you drive on? Who is paying for the policemen, firemen, and lawmakers who protect you?” I have listened as accountants tell me how believers cheat on their taxes by trying to cut corners. It is heartbreaking. I told our accountants, “I don’t want any gray areas; I don’t want to cut corners.” Paying taxes is an opportunity to give back to the government that serves us. We can’t be stolen from if we choose to give! When are we believers going to revel in this truth?

If the body of Christ would lay hold of this, we would be a greater witness to our nation and the world. We must learn to honor — to revere, respect; to treat with deference and submission, and perform relative duties to — those who are in authority. In doing so we honor our heavenly Father.

When we honor the king, we show our fear of the Lord.

Excerpted with permission from Under Cover by John Bevere, copyright John Bevere.

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Your Turn

It’s humbling to realize that our opinion about elected or appointed leaders in our communities, counties, state, and country should have nothing to do with our respectful behavior and attitudes toward them. How we speak about people in government and authority shows our honor for God! Come share your thoughts with us on our blog. We want to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily