In today’s epistle we hear the words:
“Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you”
Just reading the first few words there seems to be content which would cause most activits to go crazy! Who are they that might rule over us? The President, a boss, a parent, a teacher a husband? Surely the “right” and “American” thing to do is to stand up for our personal rights! Don’t let “the man” get you down! I think we have seen a lot of this in our recent news. The various occupy protests and various polics responses provide an exemplary case-in-point. The other night CNN Newsweek focused on a group called “Anonymous” I have posted the video below:
With all of the clear “unrighteousness” and poor displays of power and judgement, how is any Christian in their right mind supposed to heed the words expressed in Hebrews?
St John Chrysostom provides some interesting insights to the matter.
Anarchy is an evil, and the occasion of many calamities, and the source of disorder and confusion. For as, if you take away the leader from a chorus, the chorus will not be in tune and in order; and if from a phalanx of an army thou remove the commander, the evolutions will no longer be made in time and order, and if from a ship thou take away the helmsman, you will sink the vessel; so too if from a flock thou remove the shepherd, you have overthrown and destroyed all
Chrysostom is essentially blasting the concept of groups such as Anonymous! Every group must have some form of leadership, or else everything will go arwy. I think we saw some of this in Iran as well. As Americans we believe the best and only way is democracy. Iran may have had a terrible government, but it was stable, albeit a very persecuted country. The immediate response to the loss of leadership was complete chaos. Until new and solid leadership is reestablished the chaos will not cease. Chrysostom makes it very clear that anarchy is not just undesirable, it is detrimental to everyone involved.
This of course, does not address the issue when the leadership is unfavorable. St John Chrysostom does indeed address this,
But perhaps some one will say, there is also a third evil, when the ruler is bad. I myself too know it, and no small evil it is, but even a far worse evil than anarchy. For it is better to be led by no one, than to be led by one who is evil. For the former indeed are oftentimes saved, and oftentimes are in peril, but the latter will be altogether in peril, being led into the pit [of destruction].
Yes! This is exactly what we mean! We cannot follow a ruler if they are pure evil! However, Chrysostom continues to explain in which affairs we should be concerned with
Wicked? In what sense? If indeed in regard to Faith, flee and avoid him; not only if he be a man, but even if he be an angel come down from Heaven; but if in regard to life, be not over-curious.
The second part is rather intriguing. Chrysostom first lays out that we should only be concerned with a ruler’s decisions if they affect our faith. In times of overt persecution this was particularly important. In today’s society in the United States, we are not persecuted in the same sense as the early church. We are, indeed, free to worship when and how we would like. However the question arises, are we indeed free? Considering the issues today, it is almost as if Christians have been “shoved into the closet” because their values and belifs differ from the liberal ‘values’. There was once a time where certain behaviors were looked down upon. The minority made an outcry that this was some sort of bias. Now the religious majority has become the minority and are the ones who have “closed-minds” They are shut up on all venues and platforms in the name of ‘equality’. So what is a Christian to do? It seems that we do indeed have a situation where our “rulers” are coming to cause persecution on our faith. St John Chrysostom says we must “flee” this leadership, because it is detrimental to our salvation.
We then have the other side of leadership. What happens when our faith is not in question, but the character of the leader is in question? We are always quick to judge a leader if they have had an affair, broken one or more marriages or done some other “condemable” act. We feel that it is the job of the leader to not only lead, but to provide an example for everyone in his rule. Chrysostom explains otherwise to us,
“They have (He means) the dignity of office, but are of unclean life. Do thou however attend, not to their life, but to their words. For as regards their characters, no one would be harmed”
It makes sense! Does a President’s multiple affairs affect his ability to make decisions about the country? Probably not. Yet again, Chrysostom addresses the matter of faith,
“…because their characters are manifest to all, and also because though he were ten thousand times as wicked, he will never teach what is wicked. But as respects Faith, [the evil] is not manifest to all, and the wicked [ruler] will not shrink from teaching it.”
Faith forms the foundation for our opinions. Especially when these opinions are about human rights. During this time of debates it is very clear to see where the various opponents’ positions are connected to their religious beliefs. What topics are always the ‘hot topics’ in a debate? Gay rights and abortion. These two topics have prevailed each election. They have prevailed because they are so inextricably linked with faith.
Aside from politics, we must see how we can apply the words in Hebrews in our own homes. Recall the words of Ephisians 5:22-24
“Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything”
We are reminded that the husband is the head of the household, just as Christ is head of the church. Without a head there cannot be order. If there is a disagreement between husband and wife, someone must submit to the other in order for a decision to be made. This is exactly what is expressed in Hebrews. The best part is the second half of the verse,
“for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account”
Are we not told that Marriage is one path to salvation? In marriage we are responsible for the soul of our spouse! Here in Hebrews we are reminded that responsibility for the should includes accountability for that person! This is not something to be belittled! This is continued in Ephisians,
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.
As mothers then, we are the “rulers” of our children. We tend to be the ones who are responsible for the moral upbringing of the child and teaching them the faith. Our husbands run the house and we manage the fine details. We are then accountable for the souls of our children. The husband is head of the household and accountable for his wife. The wife is head of her children and is accountable for their souls. It is a beautiful relationship designed by the Lord.