1. Religion & Spirituality

The Ultimate Definition of Respect

Submitting to and Respecting Authority

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As a parent I can surely tell you that when your kids don't show you respect, it is really hard not to want to ground them until they're 30—at least. We all try to instill the importance of honoring authority into our kids. Yet, we all have more than a little trouble honoring the authority that's over our own lives.

Remember the old saying, "Do what I say, not what I do?"

We all want it. We all expect it. Yet, we want others to earn it from us. How is that supposed to work?

God's View of Authority

The truth is, God has placed an entire network of people in this world into positions of authority. I'm not just referring to our government leaders, but also to the leaders in our workplaces and in our families. Perhaps it's time to take a look at just how God views authority and our lack of respect thereof.

Coming under authority and showing respect isn't easy. Nobody wants to be told what to do or how to do it. We criticize anybody that makes a decision we don't like. It's not right. It's not fair. It's not good for me.

In our country we've taken our right to free speech to an unbelievable level. We openly criticize our leaders, our country, our values, and pretty much anything else that doesn't line up with what we want. We don't see anything wrong with complaining, whining, and showing disgust to anybody who will listen.

An open dialogue about how to solve issues is always a good thing. But some have even categorized their poor behavior as an attempt at "open dialogue." There is much to learn about how God views these kinds of situations.

Protection and Favor

When you are in relationship with God, he provides you with protection and favor. But as you belittle and criticize those people he has placed in authority over you, that protection and favor is lifted from you. The bottom line is that God expects you to respect him and his choices. He expects that you will respect the people he's placed in authority over you. That doesn't mean you have to agree with every one of their decisions, but it does mean you still need to show respect for the position, and by extension, the person who is in the position.

Romans 13:1-3 says, "Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished. For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. Would you like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will honor you." (NLT)

Now, do you want to respect authority? Probably not. In reality, would you rather just tell them what you think about it? Yup. So how do you go about this seemingly impossible task? How do you submit to and show respect for the authority God has placed over you when you don't agree? And, how do you keep a good attitude while you're doing it?

Practical Steps for Respecting Authority

  1. Start by reading and learning what God says about respecting authority. Find out just what he thinks and how much importance he places on your willingness and your attitude about it. When you discover that God will only give you authority over others when you show that you can come under authority yourself, perhaps things will look a little different to you.

  2. Pray for those in authority over you. Ask God to guide them as they fulfill their tasks. Pray that their hearts would seek God as they make decisions. As God to show you how you can be a blessing to those in authority over you.

  3. Set the example for the people around you. Show them what submitting to authority for the right reasons is supposed to look like. Don't participate in back-biting, gossiping, or criticizing your bosses or others in authority. There is nothing wrong with having constructive conversations, but there is a fine line between offering your opinion and becoming disrespectful.

  4. Understand and know ahead of time that you are not going to like every decision. If you look at the responsibility and accountability that exists within the role of your leaders, it should become clear that the scope of their authority affects more than just you and your circumstances. There are times when decisions will negatively impact you. But just remember that how you react to these times will determine how quickly God puts you in a position of authority over others.

There is no magic pill that can make you feel good about having to submit to authority—any authority. But know when you make the conscious effort to do what God says, regardless of how it feels, you are planting a wonderful seed that will produce a harvest in your life.

You can't expect a harvest of blessings from people who will respect and honor you, if you haven't first planted the seeds. So as hard as it is, start planting!

Karen Wolff, a contributing writer for About.com, is host to a Christian Web site for women. As founder of Christian-Books-for-Women.com, she wants to provide Christian women with a place to find practical information, tips, and help with a variety of issues they face every day. For more information visit Karen's Bio Page.

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