Trust In Authority

I woke up this morning to growing protests against the lockdowns across the country. I am still amazed and intrigued by the success of our government in persuading such a vast, prosperous, self-centered country to grind itself to a halt. It has been a mixture of logic, fear, altruism and social pressure that has swayed both American and global society to willingly inflict pain upon themselves in order to avoid a greater evil. We are on a fascinating psychological journey.

This raises the issue of trust in authority figures. Why does a little yellow flag stop 300 lb. football players in their tracks? How can a lone official stand in front of a 750-horsepower race car and hold it in his pit box for a 10-second penalty? Why do we obediently pull to the side of the road if we see flashing blue lights behind us? The answer is not brute force but rather trust in and respect for authority.

When voluntary submission to authority erodes, society sinks into chaos. This is why it is troubling to see approval ratings for our politicians below 20 percent. It is disturbing to see contempt for law enforcement officials. Little league umpires are attacked by disgruntled parents; traffic laws are flagrantly violated; and lately unsavory comments about our Supreme Court justices have been voiced by elected officials – the same officials whose own approval ratings are dismal. This does not portend a peaceful future.

Why is there such distrust toward political authority? I believe the overarching reason is that large segments of society do not believe that politicians have their best interests at heart. This highlights a fundamental requirement of any leader who wants to garner the trust of their constituency: Those who follow must see fairness, selflessness, sacrifice and empathy in their leaders. One cannot effectively lead other human beings by fiat, selfishness, senseless directives or aristocratic superiority.

Let’s pivot from the sociopolitical realm to the spiritual. Scripture portrays Jesus as eternal, possessing the full nature of deity, yea, the Creator of all things. Yet when He comes into His creation, He does not claim the rights and privileges due Him but “made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant … He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Philip. 2:7-8).

He was born in a barn; raised by simple folk; owned no property; dressed like everyone else; ate the fare of commoners; held no political office; associated with outcasts; paid his taxes; and suffered a torturous death. Jesus becomes our Lord and King not by heavy-handed demands but because He is one of us. We trust in Him not because He has power but because we are confident that power is exercised for our benefit.

It is to our credit that we do not demand perfection from our authority figures. Neither parents nor police officers, neither elders nor elected officials, neither bosses nor referees are perfect. But we must be sure of one thing: They have our best interests at heart.

This is why trusting Christ is so easy. Not only does He lead from a place of humility, but we have the added blessing that He is perfect. He will always do the right thing; He will always lead us down the right path. May we confidently trust and joyfully obey.