Whatever happened to authority? It seems like our society looks on any kind of hierarchy as a passee evil. When someone is in charge it makes us uneasy. Nobody is perfect, so how can I trust anyone? We talk poorly about our leaders, as if to cut them down to a size we prefer. Just look at the lack of respect for our President. When we have a new boss, we make him prove that we should listen to what he says--even if outwardly we comply (we can question his abilities over lunch).
Sure some of our suspicion is warranted. Our world is filled with rip-off artists and people who will do whatever they have to in order to get what they want: the minivan that nearly runs you off the road because traffic isn't going fast enough; a co-worker who isn't happy at work, so she tears down your reputation, hoping it will help her situation; a therapist who decides he would rather sleep with his client than help her. We should be wise about such people, and steer clear of them! But we should also be able to recognize proper authorities--and submit to them.
I was reading Luke today and the different reactions of Zechariah and Mary to the angel Gabriel made me think about how people react to authority. Zechariah questioned God's messenger: "How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years (1:18)." The angel Gabriel didn't like Zechariah's question. Zechariah should not have talked back, but it reflects his lack of faith in Gabriel's message--a message ultimately from God.
Gabriel's response: "I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time (1:19,20)." Zechariah didn't trust this message from God. Perhaps he was afraid to believe it and wanted to protect himself. Perhaps he felt he needed to take control of the situation and was asking for Gabriel to prove the message somehow. I'm not sure why Zechariah didn't believe, but he didn't. Maybe it had something to do with Gabriel. After all, its not like God personally spoke to Zechariah.
The problem is that God doesn't speak face-to-face with most of us (like he did with Moses). God speaks through the Bible and through those who know God through the scriptures. Mary recognized the authority of Gabriel. She said, "Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word (1:38)." When God spoke to Mary it was through one of his servants, Gabriel. Mary recognized Gabriel's authority: he was God's servant and she submitted to his message. Her submission to Gabriel's message was ultimately submission to God.
Recognizing authority is right. We should submit to those God has appointed over us: to government officials (a la Romans 13), to our leaders in the church (such as pastor's, teachers, elders), and our leaders in the home (parents, husbands). Not following blindly, we should discern that our authorities are serving God and then submit to them by faith.
We don't have to be in charge of everything...what a relief!