"Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves." James 1:22 (NKJV)

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Week 5: Submit to Governing Authorities, Part 2

I've always treated the speed limit like a speed suggestion. If the limit is sixty-five, I set the cruise control at seventy-four. It's not like I'm flying past other cars. Most people drive a bit over the speed limit. The police don't stop anybody for driving seventy-four miles per hour on the interstate. So, what difference does it make?

Once again, I run up against the uncompromising nature of God's commands. We are commanded to submit to governing authorities. The governing authorities have established a maximum speed limit. To put it bluntly, driving at speeds in excess of the posted limit is disobedience to God. Speeding is sin.

So, this week, for the first time in years, I drove the speed limit or a little under. There is one very rural stretch of my daily commute that I routinely drive at about fifty-five miles per hour. I didn't even know what the speed limit was on that road until this week. It's forty miles per hour. I set the cruise control at thirty-nine.

Also this week, I wore a neck tie and my identification badge at work. I have a government job, so I figure anything that my employer requires falls within the scope of this command. The office policy requires men to wear ties Monday through Thursday. Everyone is supposed to wear their official identification every day. The enforcement of these policies, however, is lax. Like many people in my office, I have been in the habit of wearing neither tie nor identification. This week, I wore both.

What is the point? What difference does it make? Isn't this pointless legalism? Shouldn't I be thinking about more important things? By Tuesday evening, I was asking God these questions.

As the week went on, however, I started to think more about what the Apostle Peter says: "Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men." The phrase stuck in my head---"for the Lord's sake."

I think what is explicitly stated about this command (that we obey for the Lord's sake) is implied and assumed with respect to every command. Couldn't we also truthfully say that we ought to care for widows for the Lord's sake? Or, that we ought to forgive for the Lord's sake? Or, that we ought to work hard for the Lord's sake? I think Peter is just clarifying here that the command to obey government authorities isn't any different. We don't submit to human authority out of reverence to any human or human institution. We submit for the Lord's sake, just as we should do everything for the Lord's sake. This is the attitude that the Apostle Paul was talking about when he said, "offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God---this is your spiritual act of worship." Romans 12:1. Have you ever heard that "all of life is worship?" I've heard that said many times before, but it's always been a fuzzy concept in my mind. Maybe this week I'm starting to understand what it means.

I don't want to be overly spiritual about the speed limit or a necktie. But, I feel that I've begun to grasp something important. Obeying the speed limit, if done out of reverence to God, is a spiritual act of worship. Wearing a neck tie, if done out of reverence to God, is a spiritual act of worship. This week, I was reading Pastor and author Louie Giglio's little wisdom packed book on worship, The Air I Breath. Giglio says: "The question is not what you do, but who you do it for."

Jesus said, "If you love me, you will obey what I command." John 14:15. This doesn't mean that commandment keeping equates to love for Jesus. It does mean, however, that every little seemingly insignificant act of obedience, if done for the Lord's sake, expresses our love for Jesus. If we can really believe that, it will transform the mundane and difficult moments of our lives into opportunities to worship and commune with the God who spoke the universe into existence. Isn't that a little bit exciting?


  1. Brian can teach you all about how low the cruise control will go. And how to never speed. Ever.

  2. My parents just drove down to visit us on Saturday. My dad drove, as usual. And my mom complained to me when they got here on how he drove the speed limit the entire time and how it added a good 20-30 minutes to the 4+ hr trip. But that's my dad - convicted and consistent (doesn't even drive with cruise control!), even when the two passengers are biting their tongues, trying not to yell at him to hurry it up.

    I agree - viewing the whole of life as an act of worship is a powerful, paradigm-shifting concept. I think it's freeing really too - it leaves room for all sorts of creative expression (far beyond music) , but it's also a call to excellence in every act. Good but very, very challenging stuff.

  3. Pardigm shifting. Yeah, that's true. From the start of this, I've been concerned that my heart is right---that I'm doing this for the right reasons. One thing I've seen is that as I prayerfully go about obeying God in new ways, he is changing my heart. We talk about our works flowing from our faith, but I think it goes both ways. Simple acts of obedience, if done prayerfully, can transform how we think and feel about God.

  4. I got to thinking about your post last night. This lead me to wondering how you would handle your work attire this week? If it was a spiritual act of worship last week, wouldn't you choose to continue the neck tie and id badge this week as well?

  5. Yes, Dave, you're absolutely right. I plan to wear the tie and name badge henceforth. And, I'm still driving the speed limit and plan to continue doing so. Although the project is focusing on one command each week, the goal is to make lasting changes and to end with a life transformed---one command at a time. For example, I'm visiting my grandma and several other ladies at the nursing home every Monday evening---that was week 1, "caring for widows." I think most, maybe all, of the commands call for us to respond over our entire lives. That's what I'm aiming for.