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Under authority

Prior to serving as a senior pastor, I ministered in the position of senior associate pastor. Clearly, I was not the pastor, but I did supervise some of the other staff ministers. My role was to hear the heart of the lead pastor, and to facilitate his requests. He never asked me to do anything illegal, unethical, or Biblically wrong.

But recently, I was reading again the powerful story of King Solomon in 1 Kings 3. As you recall, two harlots brought a dreadful grievance before the king. Days apart, each woman had delivered a baby boy. One of the women accidentally smothered her baby during the night, and he died. Since the women shared a room, the mother of the dead son secretly switched her child with the other mother's child. In the morning, the deception was discovered, and now came the legal challenge.

King Solomon had no way of knowing which child was which. Both women seemed believable, so judgment came to an impasse. Suddenly, Solomon called for a sword, and asked his assistant to divide the child, and give half to each woman. When the sword was secured and the child was in position, the rightful mother screamed to give the child to the other mother so that he may live. The wisdom of Solomon to find the truth has been lauded for ages.

But consider the predicament of the assistant. At the king’s request, he was ordered to take the life of an innocent baby. Had the real mother not cried out, would the assistant follow-through on the king’s decree? Would the assistant have been morally wrong for executing the baby? Should he have refused to kill the child even though he was under the king’s command?

Thankfully, we live under Grace and not Law. In the days of Solomon, that assistant would have been executed immediately for disobeying the king’s command. It’s different today, but we still face moral dilemmas. Let’s consider some Biblical guidance. 1 Peter 2:18-23 tells us to be subject to our boss. Hebrews 13:17 charges us to obey our leaders. And like the Centurion in Luke 7:8, we are people under authority.

However, is it ever right to do wrong? Today, we have whistle-blower laws and wrongful termination statutes. This gives us the opportunity to have our grievances heard in a place of justice. A boss has no right to order us to commit a crime, and we have every right to refuse to take an illegal action.

But here’s a word of caution: Are you personally living above reproach? If you decide to challenge authority, do not forget Numbers 32:23, “Be sure your sins will find you out!” God always stands with those who are blameless and who fulfill Colossians 3:7-10.

The Bottom line: “We ought to obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29)

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