July 16, 1996
City officials might be tempted to add sporting event surcharges just to cover damages caused by post game riots. The problem is that some say rioters are not even fans — they are merely looking for an excuse to damage property and get themselves a new television set or VCR.
With alarming frequency, cities in Europe and even North America are scenes of violence after soccer or other games. Police break up the mobs with riot sticks, horses and tear gas but not before windows are broken and property stolen or damaged. A common attitude among those arrested is general defiance toward authority.
Perhaps this is a negative spinoff from a currently-prized rugged individualism. People like the taste of independence, of “no one is going to tell me what to do.” But, some of them are taking their attitude too far. To them, “freedom” means no laws, no authorities, even no God.
We are shocked by their behavior but such unconstrained, fist-in-the-face defiance does not shock the Lord, who is the ultimate authority figure. Several hundred years ago, He inspired Isaiah to write about us: “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way....”
This verse is only one of many in the Bible that explains human nature apart from God. It says we are universally inclined to do our own thing and to resist authority that says otherwise. From the cradle, we begin making demands. For some, those demands increase into a selfishness that rules their lives until the second ultimate authority, death, finally demands and gets full submission.
Those who turn away from God also defy His commands regarding external controls. Some even say there is no God, nor any ultimate laws or principles by which to live. The Old Testament describes it as “each person does what is right in their own eyes.” When that happens in our day, news headlines testify there are drastic and tragic consequences.
Rioting is only one example. Resistance to authority, even without clenched fists, can hide behind a smile. Children sometimes do it by standing up when told to sit. All sorts of seemingly agreeable people refuse to buckle their seat belts, run red lights, or walk when the sign says wait. Are all declaring: “I will do what is right in my own eyes.”
God’s laws for us include obeying these civil laws and giving political leaders our respect. The Bible says we should even pray for our leaders. Imagine the difference respectful prayer would make in our own emotional state compared with the inner agitation that accompanies our grumbling!
The fact that we disobey law and complain instead of obeying and praying suggests that we do not trust or believe in the sovereignty of God. At least one ancient king, Nebuchadnezzar, had trouble with this. God allowed him several years of insanity until he acknowledged that, “the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone He wishes.”
Ordinary people and kings resist God but so did the “religious” elite of Jesus’ day. They accused Him of being demon-controlled and would not obey Him. Jesus described their attitude in a parable: “We will not have this man rule over us.”
Today, people are discouraged from believing in Jesus and in a sovereign God who has the ultimate say-so over our government and our lives. If that is the way we want it, then we ought to be prepared for the consequences. Even if we ourselves do not succumb to senseless rioting, we may need to start wearing bulletproof vests and building bomb shelters to protect ourselves from others who have decided “there is no God” or “even if there is, He will not rule over us.”