The Modern Knight – Submission to Authority, Part 2

by Kevin Woodside, The Modern Knight

“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.”                              Solomon, 1011-932 BC; Proverbs 11:2 NIV

“Humility is the solid foundation of all virtues.”
Confucius, 551-479 BC

“Humility is the foundation of all the other virtues hence, in the soul in which this virtue does not exist there cannot be any other virtue except in mere appearance.”
St. Augustine, 354-430 AD

Humility easily passes the ancient principle test as a solid foundation for personal character and it makes sense that a humble spirit is an inoculation against our own abuse of power. It is also easier from this perspective to see that submission to legitimate authority is the only way to morally wield power over another. While that makes sense for the authority you have been given, what about the authority you are under? Wouldn’t humble submission to illegitimate authority be a disaster? How can you avoid that? How can you know the difference?

The first step is understanding that a column (remember the illustration) topped with “society” as the ultimate authority is incomplete. This system still leaves room for the fickle influence of culture, the rise of a tyrant, or any number of other influences that could jeopardize moral authority. The column that is limited to authority created by man is always going to be vulnerable. So how do you and I, the dwellers of the middle of the column, have confidence that we are submitting wisely and that our humility doesn’t set us up as fools? By recognizing that our column, every column, is topped by something higher than itself, each is under the original source of all authority.

“One Nation Under God…”

These are words that are in our Pledge of Allegiance, but what do they really mean? God is the author of authority and everything that comes from Him is reliably legitimate. If we mean what we say in the national pledge our insurance policy against backing the wrong leader is to make sure that we, and everyone above us in the column, is lined up under God. Unlike society, a boss on the job, or a political leader, God does not change. His authority is trustworthy. So what does lining up under God mean?

“It means giving God more weight in your life than anything else, so that if you face a decision where every inclination of your heart says no and yet to honor God you would have to say yes, you would say yes – because God carries more weight for you than every other inclination of your heart.”
Colin S. Smith

That is a big personal commitment, but being under God means having an unmoving standard of ultimate legitimate authority to measure everyone and everything else against, which in Smith’s words, “is the basis for our rejection of tyranny…(and) leaves no room for dictatorships.” Are you ready for that?

Editor’s Note: The Modern Knight is written and maintained by my colleague, Kevin Woodside. More of his teachings on the timeless principles of character can be found on his Modern Knight website. I appreciate Kevin’s commitment to character and his permission to publish this work on the Police Dynamics Media Blog.


One thought on “The Modern Knight – Submission to Authority, Part 2

  1. Hi Sheriff Ray,

    I can appreciate your sentiments expressed above, as someone not of the Christian faith but who believes there is more to life than our individual wants and whims. What comes to my mind is how those who feel they are serving God aren’t a heterogeneous group. Those affiliated with the “conservative” Christian Right appear to have a very different conception of what is ‘right’ than those (predominantly “liberal”) Christians who affiliate with peace work and the ongoing civil rights movement. I wonder if you would like to comment on that disharmony in views in deciding what is ‘right’ for ourselves and our communities? Because there is no consensus currently over what it means to serve God, or even what it means to be Christian.

    Our U.S. Constitution wasn’t originally intended as a religious document, though I agree it is remarkable when taken in conjunction with the Bill of Rights. But I wonder how people are supposed to submit to the authority of our government when the spirit of the Constitution has been skewed and distorted to serve business and economic interests?

    It seems that even the most decent of law officers with great appreciation for the insight of our foreparents will be forced to compromise their personal integrity and proper sense of justice if their departments are corrupted internally and from the top down. How does one remain Constitutionally-minded when confronted with new, unconstitutional laws, like those included in the P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act, creating a hazy gray area where a person has to choose to obey the law of the land or a ‘greater law’? I wonder if you might elaborate on that, if you have time.

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