While riding my bike today I saw this bumper sticker, “Respect authority, especially God’s” My thought after reading this statement was, “What does that really mean?”
So, let’s explore what it might mean to “Respect authority, especially God’s”? First, we need to begin with who God is or who’s God we are talking about? Are we referring to the Hebrew God who destroys folks who don’t respect Him? The God who swallows whole families in the earth for hording ‘manna’? Are we talking about the God who commands parents to stone children who talk back to them? Are we talking about the God who commands His followers to kill every enemy solder and civilian (women and children) plus all their livestock? Are we talking about the God who kills the first-born children of the enemy of His people? If that is the god we are to respect you can leave me out. A cruel god like that one is not a god I am interested in respecting. That kind of god opens the way for folks to hate and assault those different from themselves. A malevolent god with this nature leads us to Nazism, White supremacy and the KKK. I am not there and I do not respect a god of hate and murder.
If we are talking about The God Jesus of Nazareth espouses you will get my attention. Jesus assures us he has come to complete the Hebrew law we know as the Old Testament. The purpose of the Hebrew law was to get people next to God by following the rules. Spoiler alert: That didn’t work! Jesus completes the law by getting people next to God through his presence with us. Jesus, the law completer gives us a simple formula for living on this plant.
The simple formula Jesus gives us is twofold. First, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. Second, Jesus says, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend the whole law and the prophets.”
If these are the authority we are meant to respect, count me in. Here is a brief look at what it might mean to respect God’s command to love God and each other.
To love God means to love God’s creation with all our heart and soul and mind. If we respect God’s authority we would care for the earth, sky and sea created by God. We would not place financial gain over keeping the air, water and earth clean of pollutants.
To love God means to love God’s creation with all our heart and soul and mind. If we respect God’s authority we would care for all the people on the earth God has created. God created humanity in a rainbow of colors. God created all humanity and said that it was ‘good’. If we respect God’s authority we will accept each other as equal, none better and none lesser. All God’s creation deserves the opportunity to live without fear of each other on this earth where God’s authority is respected.
To love our neighbor as we love ourselves is already addressed in the first law. But let’s get personal about this law. If you don’t want to be shot by a neighbor, encourage your elected officials to pass a law prohibiting the civilian ownership of military style weapons. Advocate for sensible gun laws. You would be respecting God’s authority if you did that.
If you don’t want to choke to death due to lack of oxygen encourage your elected officials to pass legislation to reduce the spewing of toxic waste into our atmosphere and environment. Support organizations trying to save our planet. You would be respecting God’s authority if you did that!
If you would want help recovering from a devastating storm ask your elected officials to provide funding for the people of Puerto Rico and The Virgin Islands. Donate to relief efforts while you push your elected officials. You would be respecting God’s authority if you did that!
If the law or ideal being advocated in government or your neighborhood does not respect the two codes presented by Jesus, they do not respect God’s authority and must be discarded.
Respecting God’s authority means no one is marginalized or ostracized. What does it mean, really, to respect God’s authority? To respect God’s authority might really mean, “peace”.