I still remember the year I was placed in the class of the toughest Dutch
teacher at my high school. I dreaded it all summer long. Though I grew up in the
Dutch-speaking part of Belgium, my family spoke French at home, making us what
was termed, "francophones". Rumor had it that this teacher deliberately flunked
all francophone students in his class; but perhaps even worse, he had the habit
of posing himself in front of a French-speaking student and making strange
faces. I had already been forewarned to NOT laugh at his antics, because if I
did, he would automatically fail me. I wasn't looking forward to September AT
As predicted, on the first day of his class, he approached me, put both of his
fists on my desk, and looked me straight in the eye. Then he distorted his face
in a way that didn't seem humanly possible. I looked at him without even a
twitch of mirth, however. I was used to daydreaming. In fact, it was a bit of a
specialty of mine, one that rendered me, temporarily at least, totally unaware
of my environment. Instead of looking AT him, I was looking THROUGH him,
thinking about the trip I had made to Spain with my parents that summer. In
fact, I was just stretching out on a Mediterranean beach when a sudden outburst
of laughter brought me out of my reverie. Imagine my surprise to learn that the
Dutch teacher was the source of the outburst. From that day on, my instructor
treated me with respect.
I had also been warned that this particular professor would expect the best out
of his students, so I tried to outdo myself with my homework. If he assigned us
one page of vocabulary explanations, I would do ten pages. It didn't take long
for me to obtain a label: Teacher's Pet! Cartoons of me holding a balloon with
the Dutch teacher's face on it soon circulated around the high school.
Needless to say, I didn't have any difficulty passing my Dutch class. Everybody
was shocked. I was the first francophone to ever do so. Why did I succeed when
others failed? Because I saw him as my teacher, someone worthy of utmost
respect, and I did everything in my power to please him.
Looking back over my life, I regret to admit that I haven't applied the same
level of respect to every person of authority. All too often I only obey the
authority if his or her request passes my approval. If I find the request
unreasonable, I ignore it. I'm sure that I'm right and they're wrong, and over
time, I have developed quite a list of reasons for labeling a request
"unreasonable". These range from "He has his favorites" to "She isn't fair" to
"I have my rights and I don't agree with him!"
What I didn't realize was that this attitude caused a lot of hardship for my
employers, my pastors, and anyone else in positions of authority. Every time I
didn't show 100% support, every time I deliberately ignored their requests,
every time I laughed at them in their absence, I was being a rebel.
How different my world would have been if I had treated them all with the same
respect I had treated my Dutch teacher. Instead of a curse, I could have been a
"But what if my employer does not deserve respect?" You ask.
The apostle Peter encouraged us to: "Show proper respect to everyone: Love the
brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king." (1 Peter 2:17 NIV); and
"Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men:
whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by
him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is
God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish
men." (1 Peter 2:13-15 NIV)
The interesting thing is that Peter wrote this while Herod Agrippa I was in
power. He was a cruel king who only thought about his own interests. He was
forced to side in the struggle between Judaism and the Christian sect, and he
became a bitter persecutor of Christians. "It was about this time that King
Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. He
had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. When he saw that
this pleased the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also." (Acts 12:1-3 NIV)
Peter was encouraging Christians to honor and submit to a cruel king who was
responsible for their persecution! Why? Because: "Everyone must submit himself
to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God
has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.
Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God
has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves." (Rom
Every governing authority, be it a teacher, a principal, a governor, a
president, a boss, or whoever it may be, has been established by God. Not
submitting to them is rebelling against God Himself. In other words, when we do
not show respect towards those having authority in our life, we are telling God
that we do not agree with Him and that we know better. We are in direct
rebellion with God! How can we respect God if we cannot even respect those we
are supposed to respect on Earth?
"But aren't these authorities accountable for what they are doing?" You ask.
Absolutely! But they are accountable to God (see 12:22-23), not to us. The only
time we are to not submit to their will is when they place us in a position
where they want us to transgress God's will as revealed in His word.
The One we are ultimately submitted to, the One we are ultimately serving, is
not our earthly boss, but God Himself: "Servants, do what you're told by your
earthly masters. And don't just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your
best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you'll
get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that
the ultimate Master you're serving is Christ. The sullen servant who does shoddy
work will be held responsible. Being Christian doesn't cover up bad work." (Col
3:22-25 The Message)
I have decided to turn away from my disrespect towards authority and serve them
as God has instructed me to do. I have been given a new opportunity to show what
a real Christian is like. Will you join me?
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