WHY SHOULD WE OBEY UNJUST HUMAN AUTHORITY?
Sermonette notes Eric V. Snow 9-8-01 Ann Arbor, MI UCG-IA
Transition between two jobs at work problem, from A/R to Office Facilities. Problem of balancing priorities between two, A/R management disagreeing, thinking too much time spent on office facilities side. Overtime worked without pay to keep up since OT denied, co. really dislikes it. Effectively doing two (or ¾ of each) jobs for two months for no extra pay. Some justice to charge, such as near the month end (busy time) worked to move keyboard supporter for one person’s cubicle when should have done tasks related to A/R more.
Now why is this story of what I’ve been involved with at work should be discussed on the Sabbath in a Sermonette?
I’m faced with the problem of having had a poor attitude when dealing with what I believed to be unjust demands made at work. And here it was only partially unjust since there was justice to the complaints by management.
So what’s the main point then?
S.P.S. God wishes us to obey various human authorities in our lives even when they are abusive or wrong so long as they aren’t ordering us to violate His law.
A most unpleasant situation, our society really screams against it since we’re so into our rights, etc. Spirit of 1776 & 1789 (American and French Revolutions), Marxism (workers justified to rebel again factory owners and to take their property), slaves vs. masters in South before Civil War, the hip-hop, “Bart Simpson” attitude among teenagers, Hippie counter-culture of late 60’s, early 70’s, etc.
But God points us in a different direction since this life isn’t important except as a preparation for the next life and because God cares about us.
1. When we disagree with a decision some human authority has made, it could be they are right and we’re wrong, but we don’t know that yet.
Lockbox dispute at work: Dallas (lots of BAD customers, most cash received, lots of IUI’s) reassignment proposed. Split proposal rejected that had been worked out by clerks on own (problem of rejecting proposal created by subordinates when had delegated task). I rejected it, since I was the one chosen to deal with the situation. I later told the boss so after a public disagreement in a departmental meeting. Another person chose to take it on, who had had experience in reconciling account elsewhere and had a B.A. in accounting. It was later found out it could be done after someone else had done it. Another woman still later showed it could be done even more efficiently, at least in dealing with the payments by one really frightful customer.
Insight of supervisor: Saw that a change in personnel might solve the problem, but I thought it was intrinsic to the work duties involved. It turned out he was right.
I Peter 2:18-24
Be like Jesus, we shouldn’t be nasty and retaliate by our words or actions when having to obey or submit to an unjust human authority. Insight of Stoicism, even if overdone: Can change mental and emotional reaction to trial, even when can’t change the physical circumstances causing it. Might as well as go out with a good or at least calm attitude.
2. When we think we’ve been mistreated, we may still have to apologize to that human authority over us because we didn’t keep a right attitude when dealing with them.
It may be really galling to have to apologize to those who have mistreated us, but this is often necessary when we’ve not managed to keep our attitudes right when dealing with them. This is true even when we do as we’re told. This kind of problem shows up classically with teenagers exerting themselves against parents and teachers. The words said in disagreement themselves may not be wrong, but the attitude with which they are said is wrong. For I’ve noticed in at least some cases the teenager(s) in question may have a good case for their position, but by saying things with an unpleasant tone of voice, their parents or their teachers will want to tune them out immediately as disrespectful. Repeated pleadings, hoping to wear the authority figure down, after a decision clearly has been made simply aren’t pleasant to endure. Hence, someone in authority could ask for an apology from subordinates for their poor attitude or disrespect even when—this IS hard—the one in authority has made a questionable or even bad decision. Especially a problem in marriage, when a husband has made a bad financial decision that’s not a sin intrinsically (very next verses in I Pet. 3).
Conclusion: So when we’re confronted with having to obey an unjust or simply mistaken human authority, and its decision simply can’t be changed after repeated petitions (not what sermonette is account), we should learn to obey with a right attitude. We should be willing to copy and emulate the calm attitude and quiet demeanor Jesus had before the Sanhedrin and Pilate when on trial for His life. What we face as, for example, workers obeying bosses, children obeying parents, wives obeying husbands, citizens obeying human government, may bring up in similar, if less drastic, situations we may have to endure also. So let’s be prepared to walk in Jesus’ footsteps by learning to obey an unjust or simply mistaken human authority with a good attitude.