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Responding to Authority in a God-Honoring Way

By: Kristen Clark

We didn’t agree. There was tension. They couldn’t see things my way and I couldn’t see things their way. With my voice cracking and tears of frustration pouring down my face, I stomped back to my room.

Say hello to my sixteen-year-old self, struggling with authority.

Growing up, my parents and I always had a great relationship. But even great relationships don’t escape conflict. There were several occasions where my parent’s and I strongly disagreed about something. I was sure my way was better.

In my anger, I would often respond to them in frustration, tears, and disrespect.

A few hours would go by, then I would always feel this little conviction of Holy Spirit prompting me to seek reconciliation. In the end, things would turn out fine.

However, in those moments of frustration, I remember thinking things like, “I can’t wait to be on my own someday and not have to deal with my parents’ rules and authority anymore!”

Have you ever felt that way?

What I didn’t fully realize then though, and do now, is that authority doesn’t stop when we leave the house. If it’s not our parents, it’s our teacher. If it’s not our teacher it’s our boss at work. If it’s not our boss at work, it’s that sports coach, or the police, or the government…or someone else.

And ultimately, above all of these people, our greatest authority is God Himself.

Authority is a natural part of life and something everyone has to deal with. If we don’t learn how to handle authority in the right way, we will struggle against it our entire lives.

Instead of fighting against authority, there’s a better way. In fact, God has laid out for us a plan to not only survive under authority but to thrive! Authority is God’s idea. It’s actually a good thing. As Christians, we must learn how to respond to authority in a biblical and God-honoring way.

So if you’re anything like my sixteen-year-old self who struggled with authority, I think this post is going to be really helpful and encouraging to you. I know it would have been for me.

Here are 3 ways to respond to authority in a God-honoring way:

1. Trust God with the Authorities He Has Placed Over You.

First, we have to understand that authority comes from God Himself. Romans 13 teaches us that governing authorities have been put in place by God. “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).

Whether we like the authority over us or not, we have to trust that God has allowed that person to be in authority for a reason. Our job is to trust God. When it comes to specific authorities like our parents, Ephesians 6:1-3 commands us to show them honor. Whether we agree with our parents or not, our job is to trust God and obey his command to honor them.

Ultimately, the authorities in our lives are actually training us to trust God in deeper ways. Earthly authorities are the training ground for teaching us to respond well to our Heavenly authority. The more we submit to God in our lives, the easier it will be to honor the authorities He has placed over us.

2. Respect the Position.

Let’s get one thing straight. Honoring someone in authority doesn’t mean you have to agree with them. It also doesn’t mean that the person in authority is honorable. We may not always respect the person in authority over us, but God is calling us to respect the position (regardless of the person).

Check out what 2 Peter 2:13-15 says, “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.”

Whether we’re dealing with a difficult parent, an unfair coach, a “crazy” teacher, or someone else, our job us to respect the position of authority that person is in. We don’t have to like them, but we are called to honor their position as the authority. Bad mouthing them, disrespecting them, or gossiping about them ultimately shows disrespect to God.

3. Respond with a Sincere Heart

Our struggle with authority reveals our deeper struggle against God Himself. In our flesh, we resist all forms of authority. We want what we want. We don’t like anyone telling us what to do. That’s the sin inside of us. Our struggle with authority exposes our need for Christ to change our hearts.

Ephesians 6:5-8 shows us that God cares more about the condition of our heart than the obedience of our actions. When responding to authority, we’re called to do it “with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man…”

We can’t respond sincerely to authority without the help of Christ. We need to pray and ask God to change our hearts to respond humbly to the authorities in our lives. The more seek to honor God, the easier it will be to respond humbly to authority.

Whether you’re currently dealing with a difficult authority in your life or not, I pray these truths will help you see how God wants you to respond.

 Ask God to give you the grace to respond well to the authorities in your life.

Let’s chat!

  • What do you find difficult about authority right now?
  • Of the 3 points from above, which one is the hardest for you to embrace? Why?
  • What do you need to change to respond respectfully to authorities right now?

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  • Shanae B

    I literally read through Romans 13 today! Totally agree with what you’re saying! Christ is the only way to respect or appropriately respond to authorities He’s placed in our lives! Weather it’s with authorities or circumstances we have to always trust that God has the best for us no matter what! Thanks for posting!

  • Naomi

    Kristen – thank-you so much for this post! I struggled with this last year – but now I’m applying to universities and planning to leave home this year, it puts a whole new perspective on the whole idea of independence. Independence means a lot of responsability. So I guess I’m growing to be thankful for authority, which takes many a burden off my shoulders, though it is hard to accept a lot of the time.

    Just my thoughts.
    Thanks for the post!

  • disqus_OveevX8xpw

    The hardest part for me is when my authority isn’t following through with what is expected, or lacking in communication with those they are in authority over. Leading by example is important! And doing the right thing (even if others aren’t).

    Is there a way to address with without being disrespectful?

    • Addressing your concerns in a loving and respectful fashion is a good thing to do. But even if she doesn’t change the way you want her to, you are called to obedience.

      I understand where you are coming from because this was me and my mom. Honestly, I didn’t have a good relationship with her until I moved out and got married. But when I chose to obey her despite whether or not I thought she deserved it, God was faithful to bless my heart with peace.

  • Audria

    It’s hard because I think very differently from my parents, especially my mom. She’s taught me many things and she’s taken care of my just a mom should but because our personalities are so different, we can hardly ever see eye-to-eye. Right now, we don’t and I just don’t think that, as an introvert, my mom knows how to handle me, an extrovert, the way I’d really like to be treated.

    • Hey, Audria! I totally hear you on this point (although it’s flipped with us, me being the introvert)! And, now that I am married and dealing with my own authority being questioned as a mom to an extrovert, I can totally see why God said what He did.

      Personality differences are tricky, and you very well never see eye-to-eye. Understanding and agreement are not requirements for obedience. That’s not to say they aren’t good and wonderful things, and that both you and your mom should strive for them. But, ultimately, even if you entirely disagree with her, you are called to obey her. She is your authority placed over you by Christ, who knows and loves both of you exponentially more than you could imagine, and He put you together because He knew that was what was best for both of you. By obeying her, even when you don’t agree, you will bring blessing down on your relationship. 🙂

      And I’m sure that your mother is feeling similarly to you and the best thing you could do is talk about this: how to maintain a loving and respectful relationship despite personality differences.

  • Erika

    Thank you for this!

  • Malgorzata Kleczkowska

    I’m struggling with relating to my parents with stuff such as makeup, clothes, jewellery. My mama has strong opinions which are very conservative, and has rarely allowed me to do what I want in regard to these things.
    I have tried and tried to explain that I don’t have any wrong motives for wanting to wear makeup, for example, and that I would still respect her position and that I won’t go overboard, but she isn’t convinced and I think is afraid of saying, yes, you may do this, without necessarily condoning it.
    I’m leaving home for about six months this summer – and as I’m 18 1/2 I know I’ll be able to follow what I believe – but I’m afraid she’ll take it personally and not be able to still have a good relationship.
    It has been a struggle for several years – I’m not naturally rebellious and I never tried to buy makeup or skinny jeans in secret (even though there have been times some time ago when I would make a fuss). I have tried to respect and keep open.
    Any advice?

    • Shanae B

      I thankfully grew up with very few disagreements with my parents on the subject of clothes, make up, & jewelry. But I can attest that even when it’s hard and you don’t agree, it’s always better to honor and respect them as much as you can. Especially when you’re living in their house. As an adult you should pray and think about what convictions God places on you to have in these and other areas. Even when not at home remember you still are your mothers daughter no matter how different your views on things are!

      • Malgorzata Kleczkowska

        Thank you 🙂 In the end that’s what I am doing – but my attitude could sure use some work. Thank you so much for replying!

    • Joy

      If you want a break from home, be careful. If you are indeed running away,don’t!!!!! Please! I have been tempted to run away many times. I am just turning eighteen. But I have come to realize why my parents want me to dress or do things a certain way.
      I challenge you to truly seek God. I am assuming that you have dedicated your life to the Lord? What else is there to live for?
      Why do your parents want you to dress a certain way? Why do they tell you to do certain things? Find out the WHY!!!
      I have come to know and do God’s will, not my parents. It is all how you look at it. You are living for the Lord, right? Then do as He wills. Even if it is the same thing your parents wills.
      Live for what truly matters. Search your heart.

      • Red

        That’s not healthy, and you aren’t going to find a stable relationship if you can’t even dress yourself. You need to get somewhere you can learn to do these things yourself. I gave the other girl some safe advice that works.

    • Red

      Personally, I think she’s taking advantage of her position of authority. (Which actually should be your dad’s, not hers. Her attitude about things shouldn’t be the dominant one in the household. That means she has trouble with authority.) A lot of moms will sabotage their daughters, even subconsciously. It sounds like she may be jealous of your looks or like she doesn’t want you to leave her. This is really common. Maybe if you wear too makeup you’ll meet a boy or get a job. Usually, in this kind of situation, the parent will give you reasons that the rules are good, but it’s not about you being good, it’s about her getting her way.

      I wonder if she uses the same measures on you that she had used on herself when she was younger? It’s a little unfair to dictate what face wash your daughter uses when you yourself were the town bike.

      That may sound negative, but in this day and age, you have to be careful. Parents are not what they used to be. A lot of them act sinfully toward their children.

      Here’s some practical advice: look for shared student housing. It can be as low as two to three hundred a month. Get on some food stamps for a little while and healthcare, until things aren’t tight. Find a job where there aren’t too many other girls, because those tend to be more stable, but avoid jobs where they hire a lot of immigrants and ex-convicts.

    • Red

      The fact that she’s taking it personally and is vindictive about you leaving for six months is a HUGE red flag. That is not normal at all.

  • Cristie

    My comment was not approved, most likely because I shared an incident that occurred with respect to authority and sexual abusive in an adoptive family. My question is… what is the God honoring way to respond to such authority in the terrible circumstance that a person is being sexually and physically abused by parents?

    • Shanae B

      I’m so sorry for your situation. That is very serious. I suggest tons of prayer and to find a trusted older Christian woman or counselor who you can speak to privately and face to face and can give you direct advice about this.

    • Amee

      I believe you should tell someone else about your abuse. Or maybe you can talk to your parents about this and how the abuse does not represent Christianity. Or would talking about put you in even more danger? The abuse shouldn’t continue any longer.

    • Red

      No one gave them authority over you. You aren’t even their kid, and they didn’t fulfill whatever role in your life they promised the state they would. The only person giving them authority is you. You can decide to take away their baseless title of authority and walk out. You owe them nothing.

  • Dee

    Thank you so much; I really needed this. As I’m growing older and starting to develop a more friend-like bond with my mom, I need to remember that at the end of the day, she’s still my mom and still has authority over me. Whenever she tells me to do something in an authorative manner, I tend to shrug it off because of this different relatiuonship we have now and sometimes tend to talk back to her. This post brought me back down to reality and reminded me that I have to pray to God for more obidience, a trait that He likes very much. Thanks ladies!


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