Today, I heard a news report that discussed the growing problems of violence among high school football players towards referees and officials. Those working in the realm of high school athletics said that there needed to be “zero-tolerance” for players who assaulted officials or other players on the field and for coaches who promoted such actions. I whole-heartedly agree. However, as it was noted on the newscast, it seems that such actions indicate a greater, growing problem in our culture. But what is the problem?
There is a growing tendency to dismiss authority which has led towards an attitude of anti-authoritarianism; that is, disrespecting all authority. Individuals seem to promote the mentality that a person needs to fight against what is often called “the man.” “The man” is used to reference authority. “The man” may refer to the leaders of the business that employs the individual. Perhaps “the man” references those who enforce laws. Perhaps “the man” are those who make laws. It could even be that “the man” are those in Christian leadership. It is agreed that corruption can, and in fact does, exist in such agencies. However, are aggressive acts such as those implemented by the high school football players the answer? Certainly not! Shouldn’t one find a way to make a difference while still respecting one’s governing authorities? Certainly!
Attitudes of anti-authoritarianism is a human problem that have its roots in the fall. In Genesis chapter 3, Satan tempted and led humanity into sin by the simple words “Did God actually say” (Genesis 3:1)? Since that time, human beings have questioned the authority of God. Does God really want control over this area of my life? Do I really have to love my neighbor? Anti-authoritarianism finds its root in one’s rebellion against the Supreme Authority–God.
It is true that there are times that the believer must stand opposed to the works of a governing authority. But, those times should only occur when such agencies stand opposed to the principles given by God. For instance, Jesus stood opposed to the Sanhedrin by calling out the sins and discrepancies of the institution, while calling on a higher calling–loving God. But Jesus did not call for hurtful aggressive actions. Rather, he called for one to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). Peter, Paul, and the early apostles did not accept the edicts given against them to cease their preaching, yet they did not strike such authorities with the sword. Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego respectfully stood against the Babylonian commands which contradicted their obedience to God, but they did so while still respecting the authority of the king. All of them paid a price. However, their stand was not rooted in anti-authoritarianism. Their stand came by ultimate authoritarianism as they respected the ultimate authority of God.
Let us take care that we do not promote an anti-authoritarian mindset. The apostle Paul wrote that the Christian should “Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed” (Romans 13:7). If we as a society would teach respect and honor to our authorities…and ultimately to the Supreme Authority–God…then it is certain that we would not have a culture where high school football players would think that it is acceptable to assault the authorities over the game.
Copyright September 18, 2015. Brian Chilton
 Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).