As we have discussed exercising necessary and legitimate authority in the family, the church, the civil government and the marketplace in previous issues, the discerning reader immediately recognizes that this is not always effortless. Christian parents have rebellious children who have not as yet learned to walk by faith consistently. Some employers have non-Christian employees who are not interested in submitting to kingdom rule, some elders have church members who are not walking in repentance and faith and some who are not as yet true believers. They may very well reject loving, God-ordained human leadership just as they have not as yet yielded to the Lord’s loving authority in their hearts. However, that is a rare instance, as the love that flows from a heart of true repentance over time is the most powerful, creative force for change in the universe. The intransigence of our followers is no excuse for failing to mercilessly continue to expose our own sin as leaders and repent.
In any case, as rulers who are still learning to walk in this way, we must faithfully apply the external law of God in our homes, government, businesses, churches, etc. (“what is beneath us”), according to the Law-Word of God and not based on our own best ideas. If those under our authority do not comply with our directives within the parameters of the authority given us, the Bible spells out sanctions, either explicitly or implicitly. Unruly children are disciplined with the rod, criminal justice according to the Bible is administered by civil government to lawless citizens, church members who continue in unrepentant sin are excommunicated and employees who will not comply with their employer’s wishes are fired.
All of these sanctions must be exercised according to principles laid out in the law of God and not based on the whim or emotions of the ruler. They are never to be exercised in anger but with compassion and a broken heart, with the hope that God will continue to exert pressure, either through His human representatives or independently of them until rebellion is broken. We must not hesitate to apply biblical sanctions in all areas where kingdom authority has been delegated. They come from a heart of love when exercised properly, i.e., (“He who loves his child disciplines him diligently” – Proverbs 13:24).
As these measures are faithfully applied, God may use this pressure that arises from the external application of the law internally as well to show the subject his sin and bring him to Himself. That is God’s job. But whether or not that occurs, the rule of God, the kingdom of God, is expressed through those in authority who rule over their God given responsibilities. That rule is based on the experience of God’s grace in their personal lives and the administration of God’s law in the lives of those over whom they have authority. God’s kingdom comes in that place and the Lord’s Prayer is answered.
Next week we will look at dealing with difficulties in submitting to kingdom authority when the one in authority over us has not as yet learned to walk by faith.
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