I am very much an individualist.
All of my favorite games, movies and history stories involve the lone hero fighting the forces of evil (Chuck Norris I’m looking at you). To be honest I hate the idea that I need community to live a healthy, productive life. I don’t want to have to submit my life to other people – I want to be king of the hill.
But if I want to live out a life of faith, I need to look at everything the Bible says about my life, not just the things I’m interested in hearing. That’s why I find the Bible’s comments on authority so challenging. It directly confronts the way I want to live my life.
Yet should I be surprised? Look at what happens in the world around us.
Since 2000 we’ve been told by one political party that our current president is an idiot. Comedians re-tell that same joke as if no one has ever heard it. Companies publish calendars and cards illustrating “Bushisms.” In response, we’re told that the other political party hates their country. And hopes that things will be miserable for millions of Americans just to improve their election chances.
Of course it’s not just politics where this happens. It’s at home too. A 12 year old boy was suspended from school for wearing a mohawk to support the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. His response was essentially: “I’d rather be suspended than cut my hair.” His parents supported his decision.
Now maybe Bush isn’t the smartest President we’ve ever had. And maybe one party really does believe in redistribution of wealth. And maybe the school over reacted with a boy’s enthusiasm for his favorite team.
But is this mocking authority how we’re called to live?
We seem to “stick it to the Man” because we can. And so we cheer for the defiance of a 12 year old. And laugh at the Bush is stupid jokes. And nod knowingly that one party wants to take from the rich and give to the poor.
I don’t pretend to understand everything about how the Bible portrays authority. Maybe I don’t even know most of it. But how can we hope to learn what it means to be obedient, when as a society we intentionally mock those in authority?
Right now we find ourselves in a global economic crisis. And we’re told that we need to trust our leaders. But why should we when we’ve been told for 8 years that the president is an idiot? When we mock authority, how can we suddenly turn that attitude off when suddenly we need to trust authority?
The answer is, we can’t.
There’s a moment when Saul is standing alone in a cave “using the facilities” so to speak. David, the man who Saul is trying to kill, is hiding in the cave. Saul had been searching for them for a long time. It would be so easy for David to end his life on the run by killing Saul. At least that’s what David’s men think.
But David believes Saul was chosen by God, and therefore has all of God’s authority. So instead of killing him, David cuts off a piece of his robe. Saul leaves without knowing how close to death he was. As Saul walks back to his soldiers, his protection, David appears, saying, “I could have killed you, but I didn’t because God chose you to be king.”
David knew that if he started ignoring God’s authority because it was convenient, he’d be walking down a dangerous path. He respected Saul’s authority so much that he’d rather live a life on the run, then counter what God might be doing through Saul. He knew he couldn’t turn his obedience on and off. That’s a very different place to be than how we seem to be living.
Like I said, the Bible’s view of authority is difficult for me to grasp. Especially as someone who prides himself on individualism. I do know that with the election in a few days, this is something we all need to wrestle with. No matter who wins the presidency, serious problems face this country and the world. And I don’t want to reject authority simply because I don’t like it. I’m committed to God, no matter where that leads me.
I want God to be my king of the hill.