Respect for Authority and our Leaders

The Bible gives very specific instruction as it pertains to respect for our leaders.

United States Capitol Building

“If God had not given you the power, you couldn’t do anything at all to me.”

Obey the rulers who have authority over you. Only God can give authority to anyone, and he puts these rulers in their places of power. People who oppose the authorities are opposing what God has done, and they will be punished. Rulers are a threat to evil people, not to good people. There is no need to be afraid of the authorities. Just do right, and they will praise you for it. After all, they are God’s servants, and it is their duty to help you. If you do something wrong, you ought to be afraid, because these rulers have the right to punish you. They are God’s servants who punish criminals to show how angry God is. But you should obey the rulers because you know it is the right thing to do, and not just because of God’s anger.
Romans 13:1-5 (CEV)

We see obedience to rulers and those with authority including people who are not living in God’s ways. The Emperor of Rome at this time was Nero – possibly the most anti-Christ individual who ever lived.

The Lord wants you to obey all human authorities, especially the Emperor, who rules over everyone. You must also obey governors, because they are sent by the Emperor to punish criminals and to praise good citizens. God wants you to silence stupid and ignorant people by doing right. You are free, but still you are God’s servants, and you must not use your freedom as an excuse for doing wrong. Respect everyone and show special love for God’s people. Honor God and respect the Emperor.
1 Peter 2:13-17 (CEV)

Peter writes “Especially the Emperor” – giving even more emphasis for obedience to that ruler.

Not only are we called to respect the authorities, but we are called to pray for them, because it is kind.

Remind your people to obey the rulers and authorities and not to be rebellious. They must always be ready to do something helpful and not say cruel things or argue. They should be gentle and kind to everyone. We used to be stupid, disobedient, and foolish, as well as slaves of all sorts of desires and pleasures. We were evil and jealous. Everyone hated us, and we hated everyone. God our Savior showed us how good and kind he is.
Titus 3:1-4 (CEV)

And – pray for the people in power, so your life can be more peaceful.

First of all, I ask you to pray for everyone. Ask God to help and bless them all, and tell God how thankful you are for each of them. Pray for kings and others in power, so we may live quiet and peaceful lives as we worship and honor God.
1 Timothy 2:1-2 (CEV)

Respecting them, does not mean to disobey God if the laws people and political systems create conflict with the law of God. We see Peter and John being forthright and still respectful about their refusal to follow what the officials requested.

So they called the two apostles back in and told them they must never, for any reason, teach anything about the name of Jesus. Peter and John answered, “Do you think God wants us to obey you or to obey him? We cannot keep quiet about what we have seen and heard.”
Acts 4:18-20 (CEV)

Further, they are willing to accept punishment for disobeying the law when God’s law is more important.

and they called the apostles back in. They had them beaten with a whip and warned them not to speak in the name of Jesus. Then they let them go. The apostles left the council and were happy, because God had considered them worthy to suffer for the sake of Jesus. Every day they spent time in the temple and in one home after another. They never stopped teaching and telling the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.
Acts 5:40-42 (CEV)

Finally, we see how Jesus willingly gave Himself to the authority of Pilate for crucifixion, because that authority came from God.

Jesus replied, “If God had not given you the power, you couldn’t do anything at all to me.
John 19:11a (CEV)

As Christians, we are required to be respectful to all forms of authority even when we don’t agree with the authority in power or if believe there has been an abuse of that power. This doesn’t mean we can’t be passionate or have opinions, or campaign for a political party or politician. It does mean that we treat all people well. There’s never a reason to campaign against a person.

As always, it comes down to the state of your heart and obedience to God.

Jesus answered:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind.
This is the first and most important commandment.
The second most important commandment is like this one. And it is, “Love others as much as you love yourself.”
All the Law of Moses and the Books of the Prophets are based on these two commandments.
Matthew 22:37-40 (CEV)

Put simply, love God, love others – with everything you’ve got, and that does include our leaders.

Brian Atkinson

Brian is an international and inspirational speaker, consultant, and voice artist. Brian has served as the Director of Digital Communications at American Bible Society, and the Director of Digital Media at The Bible Gateway (Gospel Communications International). He has worked as a communications director, technology manager, church-planter, radio announcer, welder, and ice cream man. He has a lot of t-shirts.

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