As I have indicated in other articles, authority is a fascinating subject.
All authority originates from God Himself 1Cor. 15:24-28.
Any and all authority that man possesses has been delegated to him by God. God has basically delegated authority to man in four different venues.
- Self governement
- Civil government
- Familial government
- Church government
Anyone in leadership in any of these areas is tasked to serve those in their area of responsibility. The Biblical model of leadership is servanthood.
Leaders must lead with a servants heart according to God’s law
Leaders must lead with the heart of a servant.
Along with leading with the heart to serve those you are leading, a leader is bound to lead according to the rule of law; God’s law.
Here are some examples.
1) Eve was given to Adam to help him. However, as a requisite for leading, Adam was responsible to follow God’s instructions. When Adam chose not to guard the garden as God had told him, he disobeyed God’s laws. As a result of that decision he lost his place of leadership.
2) In Numbers 20:8-12 God told Moses to speak to a rock to produce water so that the people would have water in the desert. However, instead Moses struck the rock. Because of just this one thing, Moses was denied the privilege of leading Israel into the Promised Land.
3) John Mark was not allowed to join Apostle Paul on his missionary journey because he was found unfaithful; Acts 15:38.
William Calley and My Lai, Vietnam
In a famous event of American war history, in 1968 a U.S. infantry platoon under the command of 2nd Lt. William “Rusty” Calley raided a village in Vietnam. After gaining control, Lt. Calley ordered his men to herd the remaining civilians into a ditch. Somewhere between 350 and 500 civilians were killed at that time.
As a result, Lt. Calley was court-martialed and charged with 22 counts of murder. At his trial, Lt. Calley testified that his company commander had ordered him to kill “every living thing” in the village because they were all enemy combatants. However, during the trial the commander denied giving the order.
Lt. Calley was found guilty:
The court found that “whether Calley was the most ignorant person in the United States Army in Vietnam or the most intelligent,” he would have to have known that it was illegal to slaughter civilians who were “demonstrably unable to defend themselves” and that the order was “palpably illegal.”
Should you obey an “unlawful order”?
Since murder is viewed as the most egregis of crimes I will use it as an example. If a parent tells a child to murder someone should they do it? Of course not. The child would be disobeying God if they did and God is the Highest authority. The same would apply if a church leader gave the instruction or as we saw above, the same principle applies to the civil governement as well; even the militarty branch of the civil government.
In the same way that subordinates are required by God to obey lawful orders, leaders are required to issue lawful orders. In the case of Lt. Calley, if he actually was ordered to murder all of those people, he would have been right to disobey that order.
Romans 13:1 and the government authority
With a lack of understanding and logic of Biblical proportions, many Christians teach that Romans 13:1 demands complete compliance to civil governement. This teaching is so far afield it is difficult to accept that it is not taught with nefarious intentions. The Bible very clearly teaches that Christians are to honor leadership by obeying Biblically lawful instructions.
Even the context of Romans 13 specifically says that in verse 3: “For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil.”
There is a saying that says “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander”. In this case what it means is this: If someone is bound to obey Biblically lawful orders then the person giving instruction is required to issue a Biblically lawful order. If an order is not Biblically lawful, then the recepient is not bound to comply and indeed, shouldn’t as we see in the case of Lt. Calley.
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