One of the defining aspects of our culture is its rejection of truth and in process of rejecting truth our culture also has rejected authority. My generation in particular is adverse to anything or anyone who claims to have authority. We are a skeptical lot. This is a by-product of our culture’s post-modern relativism. We believe that true truth (as Francis Schaeffer described universal truth) is an impossibility.
But everyone has an authority by which they organize their lives and by which they make choices. In our culture it has become the self. Each individual is his or her own authority. We get to decide what is right and what is wrong individually. Some may see this as a natural by-product of believing in individual liberties, but it is not so. The founders of America based the idea of inalienable rights on their belief in a “Creator” (an authority above everyone) who gave us those rights. As a nation we continue to lose our belief in the Creator which is the very basis by which our rights were established. Relativism is death to a nation as well as to individuals.
This relativistic thinking is not new. In the history of Israel this extreme individual morality became a problem during the time of the judges. In Judges 17:6 and 21:25 we read the same phrase, “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” In this phrase we see that it is a lack of a moral authority established by God that has lead the people to do what is “right” in their own eyes. Israel had fallen prey to moral relativism much like our culture. This was in clear disobedience to God’s command in Deuteronomy 12:8, “You shall not do according to all that we are doing here today, everyone doing whatever is right in his own eyes”. The king for Israel was to represent God to the people within the covenant and he was to represent the people to God. This, of course, foreshadows how the true David, Jesus Christ, does that for his people—the Church.
Before we point the finger for too long at our culture and their rejection of authority let us examine our own lives and our own tendencies. Do we do as we please according to our own eyes? Or do we submit humbly to the authorities God has established in our lives? Surely we can all see how this moral relativism is destroying our culture, but do we ever stop and pause to think about how this very attitude impacts our churches and our own spiritual health? Do we make decisions based on Scripture or do we base on our culture and our own perceptions. Are we willing to viewed as out of touch and unimportant because we submit to the teaching of Scripture instead of the supposed wisdom of man?
There are no fewer than three authorities Christians are to submit to in their spiritual and everyday lives:
1.Your family- God has given you a family and within that Family he has established an order (Eph. 5:22-6:4). For Christian households, God has commanded parents to instruct their children in the faith and for children to submit and honor their parents. Fathers are to be the leaders of the family unit and they are to lead in a self-sacrificial way (Eph. 5:25-26) that is not heavy-handed (Eph. 6:4).
2.Your Church- God has established an authority structure for his church. Whatever church you attend you are to submit to your Pastors/elders (Heb. 13:7; 1 Pet. 5:5) and to your deacons. God has in his graciousness given his sheep shepherds who instruct you, care for your souls, and lead you. A church where the members do not receive the instruction of the elders because they would rather do what is right in their own eyes is a sign of deep spiritual trouble. Church leaders must also remember that they will give an account to God for how they lead his people.
3.God/His Word- the chief authority, from which these other authorities derive their power, is God himself and how he has revealed himself to us through Scripture. We are to joyfully submit to God by obeying his word, by using his word as the worldview through which we make every decision. If we think there is an area of our life that God’s authority is not over we are acting just as Israel did during the time of the judges.
While submitting to authority is not a popular notion in today’s culture we know that if use ourselves as our primary authority (relativism) as our culture does we should not be surprised by the havoc that will result from such thinking and living. We see examples of this all over the Bible beginning with Adam and Eve. God has graciously given us His Word so that we would do what is right in His eyes, not our eyes. If we refuse to acknowledge these authorities we refuse to recognize God. The results of rejecting God authority in our lives is predictable and will be devastating to churches, to countries, to families, and to individual souls.
So who or what is your authority? Do you recoil at the idea of submission? Do you believe that your own eyes are to be trusted over God’s? These are questions we all must ask and answer. To answer these questions wisely we must turn to Scripture in humble obedience. May we not be a people who act according to what our eyes perceive to be true and right for that road leads to certain destruction. Only through making all of our decisions based on a worldview saturated by Scripture can we hope to cut through the cultural fog which surrounds us each day.