“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”
– Romans 13:1
The above words of the Apostle Paul are directed primarily to governmental authorities, those who have the right to ‘bear the sword’ and ‘avenge’ injustice (Romans 13:4) for the purpose of keeping order. And as Paul wrote, their authority is relative, meaning it is subject to a supreme authority – the absolute authority of God. But the principle of relative authority extends beyond the governments. It applies in all organizational arrangements whether they be in government, in the workplace, in the home, even in religious associations. As such, we all find ourselves subject to two types of authorities simultaneously. We can be loyal and obedient to relative authorities, but unconditional absolute loyalty and obedience is due only to God.
Unfortunately, the principle of relative authority and relative subjection has been distorted in the religious context. Some religious authorities have encroached upon the absolute authority of God, claiming themselves worthy of absolute subjection and unquestioned obedience from its members. They assert this authority under the misunderstood guise of Theocracy.