Sometimes, I have a tough time dealing with authority. I might obey, but I can have a heart that disagrees and I can get fussy spirit towards my authority figure. Much has been said on the issue of authority and obeying those who are above you. It ranges anywhere from justifiable rebellion to blind obedience. Everyone who has studied the Bible knows that the bible has plenty to say but might find it hard to interpret. This is where we turn to the Bible, and more importantly to Christ, for a better perspective on obedience and submission.
The letters of Colossians and Ephesians raise the question about Christians and authority. Both of these letters are written to people who believe their true Lord is Jesus, which stood in contrast to the Roman Empire that controlled their cities and claimed that Caesar was Lord and that Caesar brought true freedom. This led the Christians to think that they should rise up and cast off other ruling figures. Paul had different things in mind. Of course, Jesus was Lord, but for someone to follow Jesus, he had to buy into His way of sacrificial love and uncontrollable freedom. If you look in these two letters, you see much contrast between worldly rulers, whether physical or metaphysical, and Gods rule. You also see the freedom in Christ is not dependent on a worldly rulers actions.
Colossians and Ephesians comment on each other and the predicament of being a Christian with heavenly loyalties and living in a world that demands your loyalty. Christians who had been declared free in Christ and were saying Jesus Christ is Lord withstood tribulation and even martyrdom from Romans who said Caesar is Lord and makes everyone free. They also experienced the same from the Jewish people who said Jesus was not God and was not the promised Messiah. They also held beliefs about the spiritual world and feared certain spirits and gods of the pagan world that were assumed to have power. Questions were coming up from the Christian community about who to follow, who to trust, and who to fear with utmost respect. They wanted to know how they could be free in this situation.
Paul answers all of these by appealing to authority of God and attributing full authority to Christ. This is subversive but only with love. This is why the early church had such a hard start with wveryWhen you subvert with love, you do not fight back, and the world does not know what to do with this. It only reacts the way it’s used to, with violence, hate, and spite.
What is submission to authority in this context? How does love play into this? How does a shared inheritance with Christ interact with this? Romans 12-13 paints the image more clearly that all of our actions are to spring from the love of Christ working in us. It is not that submission to authority is our end goal, but that it is a means of expressing the love of Christ in this broken world. It shows that we respect the shadow of the imago dei that governing authorities have in them, but we also know that they are not always completely in God’s will and that we must show them what God’s plan for the imago dei was. We have been given authority over everything, but we exercise the authority by submitting. We submit, not as a sign of obedience to the authority as much as a sign of our allegiance to Christ. We do, however, obey as a sign of love, which means we can enter a prophetic, life changing relationship that reveals Christ crucified and risen. Christ can use us to reveal heaven to a broken World.