One of the earliest values that was instilled in my awareness of right and wrong was that of respecting authority. There is a hierarchal system in all social institutions which are necessary for the institution to serve its function. During my youth, this authority was established as my parents who, although they treated me with love and fairness, were certain that I understood the rules of the home and what was expected of me. When I acted accordingly, I was rewarded and when I did not fulfill these expectations of behavior then I was punished. In both scenarios, there was fairness, love, and a clear explanation of the decision. Most importantly, my parents were just. The family values were deeply rooted in the Christian ideology which directed the expectations that my parents held for me. The Bible also guided how they made their decisions about my behaviors as “and He judges the world with righteousness; He judges the peoples with uprightness” (Psalms 9:8). They taught me by example and were fair in how they interpreted my behaviors.
I believe that that this early introduction to order has driven my interest in criminal justice and guided my career as a prison guard and military police officer. I understand the importance of respecting order and authority as being a primary responsibility to earn fairness and the benefits of living in a just society. However, I am also aware through my experiences that there are many people who want the benefits of society without paying their due respect to the order and hierarchy that is the social institutions that support the continuity of justice. In other words, people want freedom, but some do not want to earn this right by respecting law and order. They fear the structure because they do not want to give in to the authority.
When considering the Bible on this perception, I have considered the role of the authority as being reflective of God’s will as is explained in the Book of Romans:
For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid… (Romans 13:2-4)
This verse clearly explains that it is God’s will that man follow the rules of the authority. It is also stated that one must not fear authority unless they are doing something wrong. In the latter, they should fear because God has directed his servants to protect the good and punish the bad.
I believe that the rules of the nation are clearly defined, and that people generally choose to either exhibit good or bad behaviors. They choose to either live within the order or in fear of punishment. As we are all God’s servants, we must ensure that the good is protected while the punishment for the bad is carried out in accordance with the laws. However, when the punishment has been served, then it is the role of God’s servants so support this decision and help the individual to change their behaviors so that they too may be deserving of the benefits of order. It is God, not His servants on earth, who are to determine if the punishment assigned has changed the behavior, but it is our job to lead by example, be fair, and represent justice. Criminal behaviors exist, but law and order can overcome. When we all respect the law, then the social institutions are supportive but when the respect is lacking then so is the support.