There is a general distrust of authority in our society. School administrators and teachers complain about a lack of respect in the classroom. Americans, some of them in positions that are supposed to enforce the law, seem to ignore the Constitution. Parents struggle with children who are rebellious. Where does this anti-authoritarian attitude come from?
On his website Grace to You, John MacArthur gives six sources of this rebellious attitude:
- The nature of sin. Sin is war. It is rebellion against God. That’s why Isaiah 48:22 says, “There is no peace…for the wicked.” Sin is lawlessness (1 John 3:4). At its heart it is a rejection of authority.
- A lack of moral absolutes. How can we exercise authority when we don’t know what the rules are? Our society has rejected the Bible. There are no absolutes anymore. If we don’t have a standard, how can we say what is right and what is wrong? It’s all a matter of opinion.
- Failure of parents to discipline their children. Respect for authority beings in the home. But we have an entire generation of children who have grown up with no sense of what it means to respond to authority. What happened? Maybe parents are working too much, or divorce is too prevalent. It is a complicated issue. One thing is certain: parents want to minimize conflict at home, so they just give in to their kids. They do it for the sake of peace, but the results are anything but peaceful.
- The media. Who are the bad guys in the media? The government, the church, and the police. The riots in Ferguson, Missouri, were not handled well by the media. The police were made out to be evil, while a mob of angry looters were pictured as victims of abuse. Who are the good guys? The rebels. The criminals. The Rambos and Dirty Harrys. The rebellious teens. The media has subtly influenced us to think that being bad is good.
- The failure of leaders to be models of virtue. Why does the media go after the government and the police and the church and fathers? Because of the failure of these authority figures to model virtue and goodness. America is tired of scandals. It’s just about given up on authority because there are no true leaders to step in and provide leadership that is needed.
- An over-estimation of personal rights. Don’t get me wrong. Everyone has certain basic rights (1 Pet. 2:17). But humanism has taught us that everything is a right. We have come to demand far more than what can reasonably be provided to us. Freedom has to be restrained by virtue. Without constraints on our society, or we descend into anarchy.
All authority on earth has been delegated by God. Paul said, “…there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (Rom. 13:1). Without respect for authority, society crumbles and there is no one to lead or to protect the innocent. Without a doubt, we have our fair share of corrupt leaders and incompetent authority figures. But authority has been put on earth by God. Let us learn to respect it.