Rebels, Respect and Reprimands


Denise Johnson

Key Scripture: Jonah 3:1-5

The definition of authority is the power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience. The biblical definition is way longer and very interesting, you should research it.

When raising my children, I would tell them that they will always have some sort of authority over them. I remember them telling me that they couldn’t wait until they were adults and could do whatever they wanted. I would remind them that even in adulthood we all have someone or something in authority over us. In college, our professors will have authority over us. At work, our boss will have authority over us. As we drive our cars, traffic laws have authority over us. And of course, God will always be the ultimate authority over each of us, whether we choose to acknowledge and obey him or not. 

In my own life, I’ve had experiences that have taught me how to respond to authority, even if it feels difficult. One day, during my time in the Marine Corp, I heard yelling through the walls of my office. A major, who was the public affairs director, was disciplining a lieutenant very loudly. The lieutenant was my direct supervisor. 

A couple hours later, that same lieutenant directed his anger towards me. He barked loudly, “Sergeant Johnson! Send me Corporal Jones!” Now, this corporal was a young woman who had recently lost her grandmother—the woman who had raised her. Admittedly, she was distracted and making mistakes. Instead of sending her in, I went into the lieutenant’s office myself. Although I wanted to run and hide, I knew what I needed to do to protect Corporal Jones and advocate on her behalf. I knew that the full wrath of my superior would be directed at me, nevertheless I submitted myself to his authority and stood in her place. 

I walked into the lieutenant’s office, stood at attention, and said to him that I felt that he was not in the right mind to speak to the corporal at that moment, and that his anger would be misplaced. I braced myself for the thorough reprimand I received, which ended with, “Get out of my office!”  

Even though the decision to stand in the gap for my fellow Marine was difficult, and I had no idea what the outcome would be, I felt convicted that I needed to hold the line for her. Even though I was nervous and my stomach was in knots, in the end, I went. We see this form of submission in Jonah 3:3, now of course it took him sitting in the belly of a whale to get to that point—and I would take a reprimand from my superior officer over sitting in the belly of a whale any day—but the point is that Jonah ultimately learned obedience. 

I believe that all of us have had moments when we want to run away from authority. We don’t like the painful consequences that come with disobedience. However, when we obey authority, we gain trust and when we gain trust we get freedom, with freedom comes peace. I’m not going to say that agreeing with authority is easy, just ask Jonah, or my commanding officer. I strongly identify with Jonah, but when I submit to God and work toward obeying his prompting, my life gains so much peace. 

Steps of Faith: Dear Lord, it’s in our nature to rebel and want to do things our own way, even when we know your way and your will is best for our lives. You know us inside and out since we were knit together in our mother’s womb, and you have plans for us. Please guide us toward peace and help us to obey the authority you have in our lives. In the name of Jesus we pray. 

Deeper Walk Scripture: Romans 13:1-7, Matthew 28:18, 1 Peter 2:13-17

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