Will the day come when the ordinary student and teacher fear going to school because the authority structure has broken down?
Will the day come when schools have to employ security personnel to enforce order among students?
Judging from what is happening among many developed countries, this day may come to our own society if we allow ourselves to become complacent and passive.
According to Tay Houw Jin, a former staff of Youth Guidance, 3 factors are working against young people in shaping their understanding of authority.
“Firstly, Post-modernism has taken the form of an increasing advocacy for the young to speak up and voice their opinions. They are told there are no right or wrong answers. Our youths are catching on. Winning an argument is ‘hip’, never mind right or wrong, never mind morals.
Secondly, affluence has contributed to better education and opportunities. In turn, this has caused a shift in societal structure that increasingly advocates an individual’s rights. Hence, authorities are expected to exercise due consideration to individuals and we have become more tolerant, more permissive. The once no-nonsense man-in-blue has become the
friendly neighborhood policeman. The once highly respected disciplinary master is confused with his role as he is expected to employ softer approaches.
Thirdly, our ‘complaining culture’ has watered down education policies. Corporal punishment is
notably less meted out in this generation. Teachers and school authorities have been “taken to task” for being overly harsh in disciplining students when parents complain and demand explanations for disciplinary actions which they deem as unnecessary or unreasonable. Where such occurrences become the norm rather than the exception, teachers and school authorities resort to softer approaches and disciplinary guidelines are amended accordingly…”
Houw Jin shares from personal experience, “I once witnessed an outdoor school activity in which a student was beaten by 3 others. The victim complained of pain in the head, yet did not wish to file a police report. His teacher subsequently dismissed him to return home on his own! What was more disturbing was the way he managed the 3 aggressors. He was friendly with them and I saw no serious action taken against them! Why? Was ‘inconvenience’ the issue? Was the teacher afraid of repercussions? Was he trying to win them over by showing some favor? Are school corner gangs gaining a foothold? To me, it is a tragic shift from being God pleasing to men pleasing… there is no courage (in the teacher) in standing up for the truth even when our authority is God-given!”
God the supreme authority
Any discourse on the issue of authority must start from the fundamental recognition of God as the ultimate authority that every man is subject to. We are already witnessing the cracks in our society that rejects God as mentioned.
2 Timothy 3:1-5 talks about the trends of a society that sanctions and glorifies rebellion.
“But I know that in the last days perilous times will come:
For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters,
proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving … disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
Is not this the kind of moral chaos that our children are exposed to? Yet in the midst of all these influences, Christian parents are charged with the task of teaching their children to obey and respect authority. (Ephesians 6:1-4)
Yes, fellow parents, God has ordained us as authority over our children and so it is our mandate to teach them to fear Him, the supreme authority. Our homes are the very places where respect for authority begins because parents are their first visible encounter with authority! Every one of us begins to form ideas about submission and authority right at our homes. Children who have never been taught and nurtured in respecting parental authority will grow up to despise other forms of authority, be it authorities in school, in the workplace, in the government, in church and even in the society at large.
How can we teach our teenagers then? Remember there are four levels of teaching that are always at work in our homes:
God the supreme authority over parents
Level #4 is a subtle and yet powerful teaching mode. Our children will soak in all that is displayed by mum and dad. So, before we teach our children with words, let us first examine ourselves.
Some good questions to ask ourselves are: “How am I submitting to God and His Word? Do I criticize God-ordained authorities in front of my kids? Do I disregard right and wrong just to win an argument?” If our lives do not reflect an attitude of submission to God, our children too will not submit to God no matter what we say, or how we punish them.
God supreme over children
To help our children submit to authorities, point them to Romans 13:1-5. Help them see that God has chosen to govern societies with the establishment of authorities, which act as His servants to execute law and order. Therefore, those who rebel against established authorities are rebelling against what God has instituted and will bring judgement upon themselves (Rom 13:2). The execution of justice involves penalties and these hold terror for those who do wrong (Rom 13:3-4). Conversely, those who do right have no fear. Respect is to be accorded where respect is due, not just earned.
In working out the above principle, we need to be mindful of the teens’ mindset:
“I don’t care what authorities say”
The need to confront rebellion is an uphill task most of the time for every parent because disobedience comes naturally to every child. They are “experts” in rebellion, either silently or vocally. When we bear in mind this “natural bent”, we become more patient even in correcting them. Plus, when we help our young people see man’s bent on sinning, perhaps they too will contemplate if they had indeed acted wrongly, and be slower to react to authorities.
“I will do what you say but I still don’t agree!”
Submission without honor is nothing more than hypocrisy, and hypocrisy is a sin. We are all prone to the sin of hypocrisy and the wise parent will do well to address not only the acts of defiance, but the wrong attitudes as well. A discerning parent will discover that when he deals with wrong attitudes, actions practically take care of themselves. Woe to the parent who is concerned with the child’s actions but fails to address the attitude.
“Haha! Now that I have the authority, I can do whatever I like”
Haven’t we heard countless times in CCA when seniors were mean to juniors? So when juniors have risen through the ranks, they rub their hands in anticipation for their turn to “tekan” their juniors? This ‘tradition’ persists possibly because kids are often at the “bottom of the hierarchy of authority”, and thus subject to much abuse of authority (we are living in a fallen world after all). As our youths mature, they too will have to exercise authority over younger ones. It is crucial, therefore, that we teach them from Rom 13 God’s purpose for authorities and remind them that they are but instruments of God when they are in positions of authority.
“But the authorities are really wrong!”
Daniel’s example aptly teaches how to live under authorities despite their wrong. From Dan 1 to 6, Daniel exemplified obedience to God.
- Daniel prayed constantly to submit Himself to God’s authority and to seek dependence on God
- He saw that it was God who put him in Babylon and so served the Babylonian authorities until their commands conflict God’s commands
- When the Babylonian authorities’ decrees defied God’s commands, Daniel chose to obey God and so trusted God to take care of all consequences for his obedience.
Tip for our teens facing conflict with authorities:
Dear Parents, given the present trend and the sinful bent within all of us, it remains a tremendous challenge for us and for our children to submit to God and His ordained authorities. But there is no other way if we truly desire to honour the Lord.
posted on August 5 2016