“There’s a right way, a wrong way, and the Navy way.” This was a quote I heard quite a bit when I was in the Navy. It was usually offered when something that we were told to do just didn’t seem to make sense. The longer I was in the Navy, however, more I came to realize that life, at least in the Navy, went a lot easier if I just changed my mind and made my way (the right way, of course) the Navy way.
One of the things I remember about boot camp in the Navy was that they had a plan for everything. I don’t remember anything about my arrival at San Diego boot camp, but I do remember that first morning. We were aroused at around 4:00 a.m. to the sound of people yelling and wrapping sticks inside of metal trash cans. From then on, for eight weeks, someone was always telling me what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. My life was no longer my own. I’m pretty sure they even made comments to that effect.
I was pretty well grown by then (18 years old). I knew how to take care of myself. My parents did a good job of raising me. But the new Navy way, was an entirely different experience. They told me a new way to make my bed, fold every piece of clothing I owned (who knew you needed to fold underwear?), I even had to begin shaving. Shave what? I thought. I still remember that first morning when the company commander walked past me, stopped, backed up and squinted at my neck. I guess there was some peach fuzz growing there that I hadn’t cut off, not seeing it myself. He lit into me and talked to me about my ancestry, my posterity, and some other things I can’t remember right now. Finally, he said that I, and all the rest of us needed to shave whether there was anything to cut off or not. Another lesson in the Navy way.
The reason I’m writing this, besides that I’m an old dude and old dudes are supposed to go on and on about their younger years, is that I learned from that Navy experience that I could change my mind about things even when I didn’t understand or agree with them. All I needed was the right motivation and authority telling me in just the right way, to change my mind.
The Navy wouldn’t work very well if every sailor discussed the commands before obeying them. There needed to be an understanding that the Navy way was the way things needed to run, if it was to run at all.
So here’s the application: there are times in our lives when we need to submit ourselves to higher authorities even when we don’t understand, aren’t convinced, and don’t agree that the authority has any idea what it is talking about.
Ultimately, this is the way God made the world and is the way God works in the world. When God commands, we obey. We don’t need to know why he said it. We don’t need to know why he wants us to do whatever it is. We don’t need to agree with him that this is the best thing for us. We just need to ask, as we used to say in the Navy, when told to jump, “How high? On our way up;” and to do it with a chipper attitude.
Other authorities we have in our lives derive their authority from God. For example, God placed governing authorities over us to care for us and to rule us. In Romans 13:1 tells us that we need to submit ourselves to the governing authorities. It explicitly tells us that God has given us this authority and that if we don’t answer to them, we’ll have to answer to him (vss. 1-7, and especially v. 2). And again, God gave parents to children to rule and raise them (Eph. 6:34). And he gave husbands to be authorities over their wives (Eph. 5:22). In all these instances, God tells us to submit to these folks as we submit to him.
So, is there a right way, a wrong way, and God’s way? Not really. There is God’s way and sin. Not doing things God’s way is sinful.
But what if we don’t agree with what the governing authority has for us to do? According to the command and the context of the Bible, unless they ask you to deny Christ, or to do something that goes against something else that God has told you to do, the answer is no! You are in sin if you don’t submit to these authorities and to submit joyfully.
“But what if I don’t like what my husband tells me to do? Suppose it just seems to be a stupid thing to do? What if it is a stupid thing to do? Everyone says it’s a dumb thing and no self-respecting person would do that. Besides I did a study on the internet and he’s just wrong. Do I have to do what he says?” Again, what does the word of God say? “Wives submit yourselves to your husbands as unto the Lord” (Eph. 5:22). At the base level, when you scrape away all the fluff and hoopla, the Bible is pretty plain.
“But what if I can’t change my mind? It’s so hard. You don’t understand. It’s hard.” The Bible commands you to change your mind. This means that you can change your mind. How? Just change it. Every time you learn something new, in an area where you already know something, you change your mind. The other day, I thought a particular event had occurred on Christmas Eve. Upon further investigation, I discovered that I had been wrong for several years. The event actually took place on New Year’s Eve. Now I know that it happened on New Year’s Eve. I changed my mind. It’s that simple.
The problem is that you want your opinion to the right opinion —over God’s opinion. You want to do things your way no matter what anyone, including God, says. You want to do whatever you want to do, no matter what anyone else wants you to do, including God. But in the same way that I discovered that changing my mind from my way (the right way) to the Navy way, made my life a lot easier, so will changing your mind from your way to God’s way make your life a lot easier. Jeremiah passed on this little nugget from God to his people, “But this is what I commanded them, saying, ‘Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people. And walk in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well with you.’” (Jeremiah 7:23)
If you want your life to go well, obey God. It really isn’t the right way, the wrong way, and the Navy way. It’s God’s way or sin. Simply change your mind.