The Authorities

I’ve been noticing that just about every news story these days makes reference to a group of nameless, faceless people known only as “the authorities.”  Just today, while listening to the car radio, I heard the following phrases:

“The authorities are investigating…”

“The authorities have no comment…”

“The authorities are considering changes…”

“The authorities arrived on the scene…”

“The authorities will be releasing a statement…”

Who are these people that seem to have their finger in everything that happens?

A lot of folks believe they are just a group of high-minded, stuck-up bureaucrats who sit in their air-conditioned offices around their mahogany conference tables, sipping their espresso and making rules that the rest of us have to follow.  Check that.  Making stupid rules that the rest of us have to follow.

This is not a new sentiment.

In New Testament times the authorities were so despised that Paul had to remind his readers that they were put in place by God and that he (God) expected his people to submit to them. (Romans 13:1)  Even today, a casual scroll through your Facebook news feed will reveal one disrespectful post after another directed at various authority figures, from the POTUS on down.

With that in mind, I offer the following true story about BASE jumping.  (In case you didn’t know, BASE is an acronym for Buildings, Antennas, Spans, and Earth.  Thus, BASE jumping is the practice of leaping off of fixed objects with a parachute strapped to your back.)

On October 22, 1999, Jan Davis, a veteran parachutist, jumped off the 3,200 foot granite cliff called El Capitan in Yosemite National Park.  Her husband was filming the jump and several reporters were watching.  To their horror, Jan’s chute never opened.  She crashed onto the rocks below and died.

Those who live in that part of the country knew immediately that Jan had executed the jump illegally.  BASE jumping has been outlawed in Yosemite for a long time.  The reason she did it…the reason her husband was filming…the reason the reporters were there is that they were all determined to prove to the authorities who passed that silly law that BASE jumping is safe.


It’s always easy to blast the authorities…to rail about their motives, their methods, or their morals.  In extreme cases, such railing might be justified because, in spite of their lofty perch on the community organizational chart, authorities can be wrong.  However, as this story illustrates, they’re not always wrong.  We Christians need to remember what the apostle Paul said:  “So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished.”  (Romans 13:2)

Before you launch into a diabtribe about the President, the Congress, the school board, the mayor, or even your preacher or church elders, you’d do well to consider the risk involved.

For further reflection read Romans 13:1-5.

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5 Responses to The Authorities

  1. Joanna Bernardi says:

    How ironic? About the jumper. Well said, Pastor.

  2. Gene Kollak says:

    I believe that the so-called 80% of Americans who call themselves Christians also have a duty to be good stewards of the freedoms so many have fought for here in this great experiment called America. Mark, you and I were raised in a small community in the Bible belt of Southern Illinois…and dare I say the pastors of old would virtually turn over in their graves at our lackadaisical attitudes towards the unborn, same-sex co-habitation, the idea that it is OK to receive ‘rewards’ from our government for not working, etc., etc. It is more important than ever for Christians to be vocal, if not for those of our age, then for our children. The Israelites of Paul’s time were born into virtual enslavement under the Roman authorities…we, on the other hand, were given a new land, a fresh start, led by the Black Regiment (pastors of the American Revolution) who were despised so dearly by the English they and their families were hunted down like dogs. Oh, for those fierce men of God today. It can be readily argued that the apathy of Christians the past 20 years have been instrmental in the transformation of this country into one not recoginized by our founders. Yes, God has allowed our desires…the story of King Saul comes to mind…..

    • Mark says:

      Gene, thanks for a great post. I agree with you…the voice of the believer needs to be louder and bolder in our culture. A couple of points: I know that something like 80% of Americans call themselves Christians, but I’m convinced the REAL number is nowhere near that. The term “Christian” is so loosely defined these days that it has lost much of its true meaning. True Christians, as the Bible defines them, are clearly in the minority.

      Also, my post was directed primarly at people who CONSTANTLY whine and complain about all authorities everywhere. I agree with you…there are certain issues we should never shut up about. But I think we diminish the power of our message when we constantly complain about every little thing. For example, is it really beneficial to our cause to complain about Michelle Obama’s appearance on the Oscars? Or would we be better off to pick our battles and focus on things that actually matter?

      By the way, brother, I read and appreciate your posts.

  3. Marg says:

    Mark I also liked Gene’s post. I for one have no clue what was said about Michelle’s appearance at the Oscars and do not care. I wonder many times what the media thinks is so note worthy about their subjects? I guess they actually have no real news. To bad they do not find the time to report positive things instead of all the negative.

  4. M.R.R. says:

    Part of it might be that people want someone to blame, and the authorities are an easy target. Because it’s not as if we could be wrong.

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