Abuse is always someone in a position of authority, trust, or power ABUSING that position. This position may not come with an official title, but it may be a position that someone holds because of age or physical size and strength. The Bible talks a lot about authority. Many sermons have been preached about authority, and we all have memorized passages of Scripture that command us to submit to authority. The question then becomes, does the Bible place any limits on authority figures to protect the weak from abuse?
Authority according to Jesus
Jesus is very clear that abuse of authority is completely incompatible with Christianity. Authority has been given so that those under the authority may be ministered to, carried, and strengthened. It is for this reason that certain titles used to be given to positions of authority. Pastors were called ministers because that is what they were supposed to do. They were to use their position to minister to and strengthen the weak. Public officials used to be called public servants because they were to serve the best interests of their constituents. (Matthew 20:25-28)
Authority as an instrument of God
Romans 13 has been used to teach total submission to all authority figures. It has been used to teach that disobeying an authority figure is disobeying God. However, this is not a correct interpretation of Romans 13. God has ordain individuals to be His instrument in carrying out His revealed will. These positions of authority are only in place to reward what God calls good and punish what God calls evil. Nowhere has God given any man authority to go beyond this. (Romans 13:1-4, James 4:12, Isaiah 5:20)
Bringing balance to imbalance
Most Christians have learned numerous passages of Scripture as it relates to authority figures. Children obey and honor your parents. Wives submit to your husbands. Church members submit to your elders. Citizens submit to your government. Although these teachings have their basis in Scripture they can easily become unbiblical ideas; a half truth is a total lie. Every position of authority outlined in Scripture also comes with clearly defined limits on that authority and warnings about abuse of that authority. When we teach on authority and do not include these limits and controls against abuse we are creating a culture that is going to be ripe with abuse of every form. We must bring balance to what the Bible says about authority and teach the whole counsel of God. (Ephesians 6:1-4, 1 Peter 3:1-7, Ephesians 5:21-29, Hebrews 13:17, 1 Timothy 5:19-21, 1 Peter 5:1-4)
Jesus and the Apostles were not viewed as submissive citizens. They were viewed as rebels. In fact Christians for thousands of years have always been viewed as rebellious people seeking to create seditions and divisions. This is simply because Jesus refused to submit to authority figures when they went beyond the God ordained limits of their authority. The Apostles followed the example of Jesus Christ; they respectfully refused to submit to authority figures when they were abusing their authority. (Galatians 1:6-9, Mark 7:5-9, John 19:10-11)
We must obey God
God’s people are to be gentle, humble, and peacemakers. However, we are also to be obedient to God. For this purpose we must understand that obeying God means refusing to submit to commands that authority figures make that are clearly an abuse of their authority. We must teach those who are weak to stand up against abuse. (Isaiah 8:20, Acts 5:29, Matthew 10:16)
Have you submitted your life to Jesus Christ? Are you submitting to the authorities God has placed in your life? Will you study Scripture to understand the limits God places on authority and teach your children to stand up against abuse of authority?