Yesterday at services, at the close a most excellent sermon message from my local church pastor, there were two most difficult challenges that were very interrelated to each other and interrelated to some of my own main personal difficulties in life. The first, and more immediate challenge, was to go a week without griping or sniping at any authority figure anywhere in the world, which ought to be admitted is a tall order. Although by American standards, I do not consider myself a particularly nasty person about having respect for governing authorities, it is not difficult for a reader of this blog to find frequent general criticisms of contemporary authorities or even occasionally more pointed and personal critiques. The second and more long-term challenge is to, whenever one has a criticism to make of an authority, to pray for that person. I can think of authorities for whom I would make prayers that they would repent of their ways, but such prayers, by showing a concern for their well-being, might help me in my own well-being by building love and outgoing concern for even those who would probably consider me among their enemies. Although these challenges are exceedingly difficult, I thought them worthwhile to pursue.
It is not as if I have not recognized the importance of showing respect to authorities, even those authorities who I am not particularly fond of. In my speaking and writing the subject of the legitimacy of authority and its claims for honor and respect has been a somewhat common subject of my discourse both in the general and even the particular . This is little surprise when one considers that the reason for the existence of this blog in the first place, for those who are not aware, is a particular crisis in the legitimacy of authority that led me to become a very outspoken defender of the legitimacy of the governing authorities of my own particularly church organization. It was a very dramatic and somewhat shocking experience to find me defending authorities of any kind, since most of my life has been spent in a somewhat critical mindset towards authorities. To preach submission to authorities appointed or allowed by God is a noble duty, but actually having an attitude of respect and honor towards authorities one does not particularly like very much is a vastly more difficult but at least equally important scriptural obligation.
It is for that reason that I found yesterday’s sermon to be so thought-provoking and such a worthy challenge, despite the fact that I know very well it will be a difficult one for me. One of the most striking points in yesterday’s sermon was the third and final point, that no one who cannot be ruled by authority will be allowed to rule. The first two points, as serious as they were, did not provoke the same sort of personal soul searching. As far as my humility goes, I am fully aware that I do not possess worthiness to be a child of God (as if one could be worthy of such an honor to begin with, much less with as much baggage and folly as my life has been filled with). As far as my justice and mercy goes, I am both a person of a very high standard of justice and equity in my dealings (even with my enemies) and also a merciful person who does not take personal vengeance on those who have wronged me. Yet this aspect of respect and honor to authority is a major challenge to me, and I think it has been in my life one of the major difficulties I have had in having opportunities for leadership.
On a theoretical level, it is easy to know that we are not perfect people, and that we would be flawed authorities. It is nevertheless more difficult to translate this theoretical knowledge into a practical respect towards authorities whose behavior towards ourselves may appear to be hostile or indifferent or unfriendly. If we are given authority, we will be imperfect ourselves. Some of us may be no more perfect than authorities that now exist. Some of us may be better in some ways or worse in other ways. Some of us may be very good, but whose actions may not make sense to others, and so our legitimacy too would be in question even if we were quite competent at what we did. This may be true, of course, for many authorities today as well in various institutions. But if we do not give respect to others who are now in authority, we will never be respected or given opportunities to lead by those same authorities, since a just man does not gain power by seizing it from others but rather by gradually learning how to govern and rule and being mentored by other just rulers who wish to pass on their insights and the stability and legitimacy of their institutions as they age and face their own eventual mortality.
Therefore, in light of this challenge, I would like to ask a small favor of my readers. If a reader of my blog notices that my attitude towards authority in general is too critical, I would ask this to be brought to my attention (in a loving and gentle way, of course) so that I may pray for those authorities with whom I am having difficulties. This, of course, would apply to authorities on a small scale such as parents or local authorities, authorities on the scale of states and nations, or even the cosmic authority of God and His mysterious dealings with the world and its inhabitants. Since I know both that cultivating a sense of respect for others (especially those in authority) is useful and even necessary in terms of my own desires to improve my own conditions, I ask for help from those who read this blog to encourage the better angels of my nature and hold me accountable to high standards of respect and honor in my own conduct and conversation.
 See, for example: