Read: Exodus 20:8-12
I wonder if you grew up in a home that honored adults and authority. Maybe you were taught to say, “Yes ma’am” and “No sir.” Or maybe you were taught that kids eat after adults because the adults were the ones who worked for and prepared the food so they should be honored by being able to eat first. Maybe you were taught to show honor by having a firm handshake, making eye contact, and smiling when meeting people.
In today’s world we are losing many of these small signs of honor that we were taught. Our society has taken it even further by telling us that if we don’t like someone, we can just “cancel” them. This is called “cancel culture,” and it has become very prevalent. I don’t like your hair – canceled. I don’t like your blog – canceled. I don’t like that you thought bananas were the best fruit – canceled. Of course I am taking this to an extreme, but the point still remains. According to our current culture, if we don’t like what someone has said, then we believe we can just “cancel” them. So how do we go about showing honor to people, especially those in authority, if this is the current trend of thought?
There is no way this vast question can be answered in a short article, but we can start to think about it. To do this, I want to look to David as our example. The larger story line goes kind of like this: Saul was king appointed by God; Saul messed up in some big ways; God rejected him and anointed David to replace Saul. This did not please Saul in the slightest.
When we get to 1 Samuel 24, we are told Saul took 3,000 men to find and kill David. During the search, there was a moment of vulnerability for Saul in a cave. David’s men urged him to bring an end to Saul, but instead, David cut off a piece of Saul’s robe. When Saul leaves the cave, David goes out after him:
Afterward David also arose and went out of the cave, and called after Saul, “My lord the king!” And when Saul looked behind him, David bowed with his face to the earth and paid homage.
David bowed down to Saul! Saul brought 3,000 men to kill David, yet David continued to honor Saul. Why? Why show honor to a man whom God has stripped of his title and given it to David? Why show honor to a man that is trying to kill him? Why show honor to someone that clearly has no respect for him?
David tells us why:
“And some told me to kill you(Saul), but I spared you. I said, ‘I will not put out my hand against my lord, for he is the LORD’s anointed.’…May the LORD judge between me and you, may the LORD avenge me against you, but my hand shall not be against you.”
David’s hope in the situation wasn’t in himself. David didn’t need to avenge himself. He didn’t need to prove himself to be the rightful King. He was reliant upon God to do all those things for him.
When we bump up against authority that we disagree with, do we recognize that God has put them in that position? Do we trust that God’s justice will prevail? Do we trust that God will vindicate us?
Acts 13 records for us why God appointed David to be king in Saul’s place:
And when he (God) had removed him (Saul), he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.’ Acts 13:22
He was a man who would do God’s will. Was this God’s will for David to bow down and show honor to one who we might think didn’t deserve it? Is it God’s will for us to show honor to those who are appointed to authority even if we disagree with them?
Let’s go a little further in the story. After Saul realizes he could have been killed, he praises David and asks him to promise not to cut off and destroy the descendants of his family. David swore he would protect Saul’s descendants (I Samuel 24:22). Now, don’t get confused, Saul did come back and try to kill David again. But even in this, David did not break his word. In 2 Samuel 9, David keeps his word and restores Saul’s lands to his grandson and his servant. He even invites Saul’s grandson to come and dine with him at the king’s table every night “like one of the king’s sons.”
How much more honor could David have shown to Saul? David spared Saul’s life, (twice) and kept his word to maintain Saul’s family line. David not only restored the lands but also treated Saul’s family as his own.
Why? Because David was one who would do God’s will no matter what it might cost him personally. David didn’t need to challenge Saul because he knew God would one day put David on the throne. David didn’t need to stoop to Saul’s level because David lived by God’s law. David could show compassion to Saul’s descendants because David understood the compassion God had shown to him.
Do you see a theme? David would trust God with the authority that was placed over him. He would obey God’s word even if the other man didn’t. David was told by God not to lift a hand against Saul, so he didn’t. Saul was put in the position of king by God, and for that reason alone David would show honor and spare Saul’s life.
How do we view authority? How do we react to authority that we don’t agree with? Do we humbly ask God how to show honor to those in authority? Does David show that he agrees with Saul by honoring him? I would say he doesn’t. Throughout chapter 24 he contends that Saul is wrong. He confronts Saul about lies that Saul is believing. But David still shows honor for Saul regardless of how wrong he is. Saul is still king. He is still the authority that God has put in place.
Too often today Christians think that if they disagree with someone, it gives them the right to “cancel” them or insult them or treat them with contempt. How often are they seeking to do God’s will? How often are we seeking to do God’s will about the authority over us? How often are we looking to be like David in front of Saul? Let us seek to do God’s will as we seek to honor the authorities that God has put in place over us. Pray and ask God to show us where we need to be challenged to show honor. Pray and ask God to help us show honor to those we don’t agree with. Pray and ask God to help us trust Him more than ourselves or that authority. Pray that God will show us His will and that He will give us the strength to follow through as David did time and time again.