The Crisis of Authority

“Now therefore, be wise, O kings; Be instructed, you judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, And rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, And you perish in the way, When His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him” (Psalm 2:10-12).

People everywhere are asking, “Who is in charge here?” It seems that no one wants to take responsibility for what the wrongs and evils see in the world. Crime is left unpunished. Laws are made and then broken. Corporations refuse to pay a living wage to their workers. Parents neglect their children. Spouses abuse each other. The question is good: Who has the authority to respond appropriately? According to the law, the appropriate response to lies is objective truth, evil with punishment, and goodness with reward. This is what we expect from those in authority over us. But if they neglect these duties, we are left asking again, “Who is in charge here?”

How can we know what is good and evil? We believe these to be demonstrated in natural rights, what Christians call “natural law.” We believe God has etched into our nature a knowledge of right and wrong, good and evil. This knowledge is the foundation of the assertion that our Creator endows us with natural rights articulated and specified in our nation and state’s Bill of Rights. These rights are not free-floating ideas that we can mold and refashion after whatever our modern sensibilities want them to mean. They have existed since the world’s creation and cannot be changed, be they the rights of life, freedom, property, speech, religious conviction, and more. Because God endows them from creation, they transcend state or national sovereignty and are irrevocable by any earthly government. Instead, all governing authorities submit to commend what God calls good and punish what God calls evil (Romans 13).

So, why is it not done? Why do people everywhere ask, “Who is in charge here?” God also answers: The human heart is a corrupted and rebellious will that goes against what it knows objectively from nature and God’s revealed will in the Holy Scriptures. This is why our authorities (parents, pastors, and government) are too often willing to call good what God calls evil and evil what God calls good. A godly authority would call a thing what it is. All our governing authorities act just as we do: selfishly, vindictively, and with malice and spite. Our hearts and theirs are unwilling to think, say, and do what we know is right and are constantly working to think, say, and do what we know is wrong (Romans 7). Our rebellion so blinds us that we cannot even see what is wrong and how to correct it. Earthly authorities are no different than us. 

Since you ask, “Who is in charge here?” you’ve recognized that things have gone wrong. And by wrong, you don’t mean that things aren’t going your way or that your subjective opinion about what needs to be done is being neglected. By God’s Word, you recognize that the fundamental rights established by God are neglected, abused, or eliminated. Here, Jesus speaks to remind you that this world is under the sway of the Deceiver until the final day. The Evil One’s only weapon is to deceive you with lies. A false spirit is at work, undermining what you know and believe to be good, right, and true. 

But the very fact you recognize the negligence, decay, and death around you proves that another and greater Spirit is at work in you. The Holy Spirit works by the Word to reveal the reality of your heart, this world, and the spiritual forces of darkness at work. And God has not left you without hope, as if tyranny and injustice must be suffered under ungodly authorities forever. God the Father has not abandoned you or this world, even if He has given the world to fire and judgment on the last day. The Father is constantly at work through His Son, Jesus Christ, to change your heart, open your eyes, and strengthen your faith. Such faith believes, teaches, and confesses that Jesus is Lord of Lords. Whether earthly authorities recognize His lordship or not, we believe He will repent them to faithful, loving service or overthrow them for your sake. And only Jesus will rule the new heavens and earth. 

God may use you as His instrument to do the loving work of calling authorities to repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Or He may use you to take their place as His authority in an earthly vocation in your church, community, state, or country. God cares that you and your neighbor’s family, life, possessions, reputation, and income be preserved. But most significantly, He wants the saving Word of forgiveness in Jesus’ name proclaimed to the ends of the earth. Whatever and whoever gets in the way of Jesus saving you will be overthrown, even if they be earthly authorities once established. Ultimately, we believe that Jesus is in charge here, “For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet” (1 Cor 15:25). 

Originally published in the Sounder, October 12, 2023 issue.