…To respect authority…

Spring Summer 2013 186Trail Life USA has an oath for its members to take:

On my honor, I will do my best
To serve God and my country;
To respect authority;
To be a good steward of creation;
And to treat others as I want to be treated.

In past discussions we’ve examined various segments of the oath statement.  Tonight, I’d like our Trailmen to discuss what they think it means to “respect authority

As we’ve done in the past (looking at various scouting ideals), we typically begin by getting feedback on Trailmen’s own perspectives.  We’ve heard the terms “respect” and “authority” used in many ways and various contexts — movies, conversations with parents, discussions at school or church, etc.  Sometimes the “contextual” definition of a term or phrase can depart from the “book meaning”.  So, once we’ve engaged our group in what they think “respecting authority” is all about, we’ll ask a volunteer to read definitions aloud from a dictionary.

  • Respect — a feeling or understanding that someone or something is important, serious, etc., and should be treated in an appropriate way
  • Authority — the power to give orders or make decisions : the power or right to direct or control someone or something

Putting them together we get something like this; “recognizing that someone or something has the right and power to give orders or make decisions that directly affect us and that we have an obligation to treat them in a special way because of their status.”

The discussion shifts to asking why our impressions may not match the “book definition” and if we see the phrase differently in our own minds.

detailing the ironwork leafNaturally, we’d want to list examples of persons or organizations that fit this definition so that we can address the question “Respect whose authority?”  I’d expect answers like:

  • God, His church, church leaders
  • Family (children obey parents, honor parents and elders within the extended family, perhaps respect older siblings)
  • Marriage relationships
  • Government: Federal, State, Local
  • Fellow men with special status (i.e. religious leader, troop leaders, coaches, teachers, employer, etc.)

The next challenge to our Trailmen in the discussion is to ask “Why?” do we have these special relationships — where does the “authority” come from?  Is is specially granted by God?  Is it mentioned in the Bible?  What are the advantages of being submissive in respecting authority?

  1. Why respect God’s authority?
    1. He created us; therefore we are creatures, made in His image, but not equals (Gen 1:26-27; Rev 4:11)
    2. By direct command and/or explanation (Exodus 20:1-11; Dt 6:5; Dt 8:19-20; Micah 6:8; Pr 28:14)
  2. Why respect (honor/obey) our parents?
    1. They’re charged with raising us (as children) and they have greater wisdom, knowledge and experience (while we’re still young especially). God also charges parents with commands to raise their children in specific, God-honoring ways so children ought to cooperate in enabling parents to fulfill their duty (Dt 6:6-9)
    2. By direct command (Exodus 20:12; Col. 3:20; Eph. 6:1-3)
  3. What is the respect of authority within marriage?
    1. Eph 5:22-33; Col 3:18-19 Spouses take care of each other and work together.
  4. Why respect our fellow man (our neighbors)?
    1. God’s authority commands us to respect life, property of others, dignity of relationships (Exodus 20:13-17)
    2. Among fellow believers, we can set up structure to share authority and delegate tasks efficiently (Deuteronomy 1:9-18; Acts 6:1-7)
  5. Why respect the authority of elected government?
    1. Romans 13:1-3 says, “Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished. For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. Would you like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will honor you.” (NLT)

Of course, we could go on with additional examples and references, but the intent is to open the heart and mind to ponder and be inspired to dig deeper individually.

Wawayanda 2011 tentsRespecting authority can mean more than simply obeying since our cooperative nature will help make the system work smoothly.  We can also respect authority while disagreeing, too.  Here in the USA, we have a governmental structure that enables citizens to have a significant voice in how government goes.  We need to exercise that voice for it to be heard and some could argue about the size and nature of government, but that’s a bit beyond the scope of this type of study.

Not withstanding, we could wrap the discussion with the need to work cooperatively with teachers, spiritual leaders and especially parents — even honoring them long after we “graduate” from school since they’re our elders and have “life experiences” well beyond our own.

We might even ask the Trailmen about how the world would work if we didn’t agree to respect authority — would things work better or worse?  Why?  How?

We couldn’t hope to fully cover all the nuances of “respecting authority” in a Troopmaster moment, but getting the Trailmen’s attention is the first step to getting them interested in really understanding the oath that they pledge at each meeting.

deer at MASR 2012

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One thought on “…To respect authority…

  1. Pingback: Trailman’s Oath | Trail Life Troop 113

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