We have made it to the end of a second week living mostly at home. The impact to the economy is starting to set in. My employer sent notification that all salaried employees will have reduced pay by 20% going forward. I am grateful to still have a job and a paycheck as I know many who have lost their jobs or the sales have evaporated to the point that there is no paycheck for the job at all. I am hosting Sunday morning small groups over video and audio calls. I must say it is good to see friends even if just on a video call. I miss everyone.
With the economy on standstill all eyes are turning to the government. The president and governors are holding daily briefings. And we all wait for what looks like another 14 days isolated and cutoff from daily community life. This all begs the question for me and for my fellow citizens. Do we listen, trust, and obey the government?
Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. 1 Peter 2:13-17 ESV
Peter in his letter to the church was reminding them that they were responsible to the authorities. If the authorities say stay home then I should stay home. Seems simple enough however I know who these authorities are. They are the likes of President Trump, Representative Pelosi, and our local state governors. My respect for many of these self-serving political people is not high. Yet God tells me I need to follow their orders as a citizen of this country as a matter of conscience at the very least.
God operates on a model of authority. God is the highest authority. As a child I submitted to the authority of my parents. I submit to the authority of my employer. I submit to the authority of my pastor. And I also submit to the authority of the government. The government I submit to for all its faults is a gentle loving organization compared to the Roman government that Peter asked the church to submit. Whatever I think of personalities running the show there is no way the current government today is more corrupt that the government of Rome with the likes of Nero running the show. So if this could be said in their time the it is doubly true today.
So, I continue to stay home honoring the request of the authorities.
Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. Titus 3:1-2 ESV
Authority is an interesting concept. If I make truth claims about something then I must back up my claim by some kind of authority. For example, I could claim to be the best artist in the world. In order to prove that claim people would want to see my work. If I don’t have any works to show them then they may laugh and tell me I have no authority to make that claim. But if my art has been sold or used in some famous well known way then I might have some authority to make that claim. If I claim to be an authority on species of birds, I might be able to point to college degrees and past peer reviewed publications to back up my claim to authority. A fascinating down side to authority in our lawsuit crazed society is that if I put on a white coat, earn degrees, and then as a doctor someone gets hurt because I was wrong then my authority that was worked so hard for becomes a snare. For example this NBC News Report. In Italy there was an earthquake that killed hundreds. The experts on earthquakes made authoritative claims that the chance of an earthquake was low. Should these experts be held accountable for being wrong? Here is the main quote from the article.
“an Italian court convicted seven scientists and experts of
manslaughter Monday for failing to adequately warn residents before a temblor
struck central Italy in 2009 and killed more than 300 people.”
In the aftermath of the convictions other scientists resigned from disaster prediction boards and groups because they do not want to accept the downside of the authority they had claimed. And this is completely reasonable because they claimed an authority to predict earthquakes that is not yet settled. Scientists and “experts” go on broadcast media to make definitive claims that they can’t possibly know for sure all to puff up their credentials, egos, and wallets. I know it may seem shocking but a court finding them liable for not living up to those claims is a reasonable outcome if we accept that their authority is as definitive as they willingly lead the public to believe.
One of the most famous events of the Bible is the moment God speaks to Moses from a burning bush. God asks Moses to go to Egypt and free the Hebrew people. Moses rightfully objects because he has no authority with the Hebrew people. How will he as an outsider walk in and say to everyone come with me? How will he have any authority to speak to the king of Egypt and ask for the Hebrew people to be freed? It is an overwhelming and impossible task to ask of Moses.
13 Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” Exodus 3:13 ESV
Moses asks God by what name will I come to them? By what
authority will I go and make this revolution? Moses rightfully knows that this
is not his ambition or his place. He will only be a messenger sent by God.
14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” Exodus 3:14 ESV
There is no greater claim of authority ever in the history of the world than God’s response to Moses in this moment. God tells Moses to tell the people that “I AM” has sent him. God makes the claim that he exists. God also tells us in this name that he has no beginning and that he is beyond the constraints of the start and end of time. What is more God then backs up his claim to being the ultimate authority by delivering the Hebrews out of Egypt through some of the most amazing miracles recorded in all of the Bible.
19 But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless a mighty hand compels him. 20 So I will stretch out my hand and strike the Egyptians with all the wonders that I will perform among them. After that, he will let you go. Exodus 3:19-20 ESV
God told Moses that he exists and God backed up his claim of authority by doing everything he told Moses that he would do to free the Hebrews. But this is not all, there is one more claim of authority that goes along with this burning bush event. Fast forward to the New Testament where the religious Hebrews constantly challenge Jesus because they did not want to accept the authority he claimed (and backed up through miracles). In one of the debates Jesus tells them that the father of faith and the father of all Hebrews Abraham looked forward to the time when God would send Jesus to save the world.
57 “You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!” 58 “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” John 8:57-58 ESV
Jesus responds to their childish mockery by doubling down. Before Abraham was even born “I am!”. The parallel between God telling Moses that he is “I am” and Jesus now telling everyone that he is “I am” even before the birth of Abraham is a shocking claim of authority. Jesus is claiming to be the same God that spoke to Moses from the burning bush. If there are any doubts to the meaning of what Jesus said look at how the Jews respond to Jesus after he said this.
59 At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds. John 8:59 ESV
Moses was called by God out of a burning push. God’s authority is unquestioned in freeing the Jewish people out of Egypt. Jesus calls out to you dear reader with an authority that no expert, no scientist, no guru, no crystal, and no medium can ever claim. Jesus is God with us. Jesus is God in the flesh. Jesus came to die, to be buried, and to be resurrected so that God and his creation might be restored to fellowship. How will we respond to such an ultimate authority? Now is the time to trust and have faith in, Jesus, the authority that will never fail.
At work one day I had an interesting conversation with a “liberated” young lady. She asked me what kind of life and job I wanted for my daughter when she grows up. I choose to answer thoughtfully in an honest way knowing that my world view and hers would likely not align. There are certain things I want for my daughter but in the end she will be her own person. My hope and prayer is that she will listen to the vision and plans that God would have for her. As a father I am an authority in my daughter’s life. While I am responsible for her there are certain things that will not be acceptable for her that I would not think twice about for my son. For example I told this coworker that I would not allow my teenaged daughter to take a part time job as a pizza delivery driver but I would not object to my son if he wanted to take that job same job. Presenting any kind of inequity in jobs or opportunity does not match the world view preached by the world.
My wife and I have talked about how the college expectations work and if we could be on board with sending an 18 year old daughter without escort into a college campus to live. Turning a young lady over to the protection of the campus with other teens from who knows what kind of background is a scary thought. Another coworker, a young woman, loves to be in the mountains and regularly hikes mountain trails alone. When I asked her if that was wise she became frustrated because I clearly was not the first to ask the question. Why should she limit her desires just because there was no man around? I at the very least encouraged her to carry a gun but she declined for political and world view reasons. This kind independence and liberation for women is only even possible in western society due to the stability of the rule of law. That is a testament to just how good our society has life, but we should not be oblivious to the reality that women need to be protected even in such a society where law and order are the norm and abuse is the exception.
14 Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, 15 but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering. 1 Corinthians 11:14-15 ESV
The Corinthian Church also dealt with this issue of authority and submission in regard to men and women. Paul reminds the church of their own societal customs regarding the head covering. While these rules for head covering do not directly apply to western society the larger spiritual points of authority do apply.
6 For if a wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short. But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head. 7 For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. 1 Corinthians 11:6-7 ESV
Even today some societies require women to be covered in public. This covering is a protection and a separation of the lawless assaults from the outside world. In western society modesty is not a virtue and women are encouraged to show all their splendor and draw attention. This is only possible because of the rule of law and one should always be aware of situations that might leave an opening to a crime of opportunity.
In Corinth however the custom was for women to cover their head in public. This covering was symbolic of the fact that the woman was to be respected because she fell under the authority of a man. Her father, husband, or even some relative. Women moving to a city alone to live as they please was practically impossible. Even today tragedies are told of the young woman who moves to New York alone and is destroyed by the ugly side of the city. Today while such a right exists and is taken by many single women that same woman still falls under the authority and protection of the government at the very least.
When Paul notes the held belief of the Corinthian society that the woman is the glory of man and the man is the image of God he is highlighting an established norm of the day. To western society this norm is less pronounced and less relevant but the point of Paul’s argument is very relevant today.
11 Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; 12 for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God. 1 Corinthians 11:11-12 ESV
All men and women are equal before God. While the woman was made to be a helper for man and therefore woman came from man it is also true that every man came from a woman, his own mother, making him subservient as well. Paul’s conclusion then is that it is not for men to lord over women or control women because they are inferior but that men are to serve and women are to serve because all are from God who is the actual creator and sustainer of life.
The young lady that wanted to know what kind life and job I wanted for my daughter asked a question that is important to the world. My daughter will grow old like myself in just a few short years. This young lady should be asking what kind of future eternal life I want for my daughter. The daughter that God has given to me to raise is a smart and capable person made in the image of God. She can be and do anything God places on her heart. She does not need to cover her head any more than I need to uncover my head before God (He sees the heart). But what I do want for her more than anything is to acknowledge that everything comes from God. He is the Creator and author. What I want for my daughter and son equally is that they would know and be reconciled to perfect authority, the Father, through Christ.
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5:17-19 ESV