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.