We cannot teach our children how to submit to an authority unless we understand a vertical structure where equals willingly place themselves under authority.
It is true that human relationships are horizontal in terms of worth and dignity. All human beings are made in God’s image, are crowned with glory and honor, and are given rule over the rest of creation. In relationship to God and saving grace all human beings are equal; all come to God on the same basis and God is no respecter of persons. But at the same time, God has established spheres of authority and responsibility for mankind.
The contemporary mind has only two ways to respond to authority—rebellion or servility. We do not understand the idea of being an intelligent, independent, thinking person who is willing to be under authority. We need to learn that submission is dignified and noble. It is not servile and foolish. The Bible requires those under authority to respect and submit to leadership. Submission is enjoying the strength and honor of serving one’s Lord by serving the authority he put in place.
God has placed people in authority in the workplace, in the church, in the state, and in the home. Lording it over those under our authority, making others servile, is a wicked perversion and a defacing of God’s image.
Authority in the Workplace
Those who are in authority are responsible to care for those who work for them. “Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven” (Col. 4:1). “You shall not defraud your neighbor or rob him. Do not hold back the wages of a hired man overnight” (Lev. 19:13).
Those who are under authority are responsible to be cooperative with their bosses. “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord” (Col. 3:22; see also Eph. 6:5 and Tit. 2:9).
Submission to authority does not signify inferiority, only difference in role and sphere of responsibility. There is an interesting passage in 1 Timothy 6 that reconciles submission and equality. “All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God’s name and our teaching may not be slandered. Those who have believing masters are not to show less respect for them because they are brothers. Instead, they are to serve them even better, because those who benefit from their service are believers, and dear to them. These are the things you are to teach and urge on them” (1 Tim. 6:1–2).