When Authorities Clash
Bible Reading: Titus 3:1-2
Remind your people to submit to the government and its officers—Titus 3:1.
Check out these statements. Do they slip out of your mouth easily?
“I wish the principal would give me detention more often.”
”I’m really happy I got caught copying answers off the math whiz who sits next to me in algebra.”
If you’re like most people, you squirm when someone in charge of your life lays down a rule you’re forced to follow or catches you when you’re doing what you shouldn’t. But most days you probably also recognize that authorities usually act for your good. The Bible challenges you as a Christian to show love for leaders—from the head of your home to the head of your country—by submitting to their authority. Peter writes, “For the Lord’s sake, accept all authority—the king as head of state, and the officials he has appointed” (1 Peter 2:13-14). Submission clearly means obedience.
Still, even when you build a habit of respectfully obeying civil authorities, you might face situations where your loyalty and obedience to authorities clashes with your bigger love and allegiance to God. Back in the New Testament, the apostles found they had to disobey Jewish authorities and declare; “We must obey God rather than human authority” (Acts 5:29).
Whenever you have to choose between love for God and love for people, love for God always wins. Your only right choice is to love and obey God rather than government. But here’s the tough news: Doing the right thing won’t always spare you from negative consequences, a fact you can learn from even a quick glance at Scripture and church history. “Some were mocked, and their backs were cut open with whips,” the author of Hebrews reports. “Others were chained in dungeons. Some died by stoning, and some were sawed in half; others were killed with the sword” (Hebrews 11:36-37). Countless first-century Christians were fed to the lions because they loved God more than they loved the Roman emperor.
You likely won’t face a choice with life-and -death consequences, but your love for God might cost you a job when you won’t lie for your boss. Or a friend, parent, or teacher might reject you for putting God first. When you have to make those hard choices and face tough consequences, you can cling to the Bible promise that “God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Romans 8:28).
REFLECT: Are you facing any situations right now where love for God and love for people are in conflict?
PRAY: Ask God to strengthen you to make the right choice.