O come, O come, great Lord of might,
who to your tribes on Sinai's height
in ancient times did give the law
in cloud and majesty and awe.
I've noticed a basic fact about human nature: everyone wants to rule, but no one wants to be ruled. I don't like to submit to any kind of authority, at least not naturally. I may be able to get along with a leader so long as things are done the way I would have them to be done, but I'd rather have the freedom to do what I want when I want.
Once I drove to Lake Twitty to fish. It had been a long day, and I needed to get my mind off of it, so I took Kara to the lake with me. When I parked, I began grabbing my fishing poles when a lady walked out of a building on the property and told me that I needed to leave because the lake closed in 15 minutes. Further, if I did stay, I'd need to pay a $2 fee. That was simply outrageous to me! How dare they tell me that I owe them $2 to catch God's fish! I already pay too much money to own a fishing license, and now I have to pay $2 to stand on a bank?
You might say I was overreacting, and you'd be correct. My problem wasn't that I couldn't afford the $2 or that the lake had a closing time. My problem was that I didn't want anyone telling me what to do. I wanted to fish right then and there and be unbothered, though I know that we can't live in a society without rules. If you want to know how that would go, try reading the book of Judges. SPOILER ALERT: It does not go well!
Authority is necessary and often exists for our benefit. Children benefit from the authority of their parents, sports teams benefit from the authority of a coach, businesses benefit from the authority of managers, and society benefits from the authority of leaders and law enforcement. Of course, this assumes that those in authority are good and competent at what they do. If the leadership is bad, everyone will suffer from it.
To say that "Jesus is Lord" should be a great comfort to all Christians. That's not to say that submitting to Jesus will always be easy; it won't be. We must crucify the flesh (Gal. 5:24), and that is no easy process. However, it is comforting to know that our Lord loved us to the point of death on a cross. He is not out to harm us, nor is He ignorant or incompetent.
This does not negate our responsibility to submit to earthly authority, because He appoints those authorities--even the wicked ones (Romans 13:1; also read the book of Habakkuk if you struggle with wicked authorities). However, it does remind us that there is a greater authority, and our ultimate goal is to please Him. If we are mistreated or abused by our earthly leaders, God will take up our cause. Isaiah prophesied that Christ would judge fairly and "execute justice for the oppressed" (Is. 11:4-5). When Pharaoh enslaved Israel, the Lord crushed him to set Israel free. That same Lord appeared to His people on Mt. Sinai in a cloud of unapproachable glory and gave them the Law. The Law wasn't given to break them, but to bless them, though they couldn't keep it. The oppressed became oppressors, and God judged them for it. However, God did not leave His people in exile, but His glory appeared to them again--this time, in a manger, and then on a cross, and then alive with nail-scarred hands.
Jesus is Lord! He is the one to whom all of our authorities will give an account. He is a mighty deliverer who will judge the living and the dead! Let us not be like the ancient Israelites and ignore His commands, lest we also be judged. He gave them to be a blessing to us. If we call Him Lord, we should live like it.
Passages for further reflection: Exodus 20:1-21, Deuteronomy 6:1-9, Psalm 2, Isaiah 11:4-5, 33:22, Matthew 7:21-29, Romans 13:1-7
This post is a part of a series on the song, "O Come, O Come Emmanuel." Be sure to check out the other posts in the series and my original post explaining why this is my favorite Christmas song.