November 26, 2010
I could hardly sleep last night because of two things: my thesis and the on-going strike against the 1.39B UP budget cut. I managed to settle the first thing but the latter kept bothering me until this morning. The thought that there were students who slept in the University lobby (and some of them are my friends) because of the strike kept shouting in my mind for hours, refusing to give me rest. ‘I got to stop this’, I told myself. So I got up hoping to seek peace, reached for my Bible, and found this:
Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men1.
Having read this, I became more troubled. Isn’t this the opposite of what is happening? The exact opposite of what the students on-strike are doing?
The Lord tells us to submit ourselves to EVERY authority instituted among men. Every authority, every leader placed above us. From the king to the governors, from the highest to the lowest, all of our leaders. God does not say Submit yourselves to the good authority or Follow the responsible leaders. He does not tell us to select who we follow. What the Lord asks from us is to submit ourselves to and obey the present authority whether or not they deserve to be followed.
That’s not fair. That’s not right, you may think. Why would we submit to those who do not merit respect? Why would we obey an authority which in itself is not worthy of submission? What’s right and just then? To go up against our leaders? To oppose them by all means we can? By doing so, aren’t we the ones doing injustice to the system that upholds the existing authority? To the nation that recognizes our elected leaders?
Friends, it is OUR DUTY TO FOLLOW OUR LEADERS as it is THEIR RESPONSIBILITY TO LEAD US. It is not our duty to tell them how to lead. It is their responsibility to know that. It is not our duty to impose upon them standards on how we want to be led. It is their responsibility to realize that.
This is where most of us stumble. We can be so passionate telling others what they should be doing when we, in the first place, are not doing what we ought to do. We can see with all clarity the obligations not carried out by those who must do such yet we cannot see our own duties which we have left undone. Don’t we remember what the Bible tells us in Matthew?
Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye2.
If we don’t open our eyes to see where we are now and refuse to do what we ought to do, then expect others to think and do the same. Then let’s all be stuck up in this ditch. Let’s think about our rights only, what we need to have and what we must receive. Let’s just care about rights and never about responsibilities. Let’s point our fingers to one another and blame each of us for not doing his duty. Now tell me, shall we all be happy and at peace then?
It seems that not all leaders deserve to be followed. Not every authority appears to be worthy of respect and submission. But friends, there must be a reason, a good reason, why we have them and why they are placed above us. God surely has a reason why He commands us to submit ourselves to every authority the same way He tells slaves to submit to their masters with all respect3 (not only the considerate masters, but also the harsh ones), the same way He asks us to honor our father and mother4 (not only the loving parents, but also the uncaring ones). And He explains everything in Hebrews,
Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you5.
By submitting to our leaders and obeying them, we make their work a joy. We give them reason to find fulfillment in their service. By doing so, we also make them realize the responsibility that comes with the authority given to them. We make or leaders understand that they are expected to watch over us. That they are trusted to look after our good and therefore, make decisions and actions that would not harm us. By granting them respect and obedience, we help those in position realize their true duties. By doing our duties first before complaining and opposing those in authority, we inspire and lead our leaders to fulfill their responsibilities as well.
BY FULFILLING RESPONSIBILITIES, WE SATISFY RIGHTS.
BY BEING RESPECTFUL AND SUBMISSIVE FOLLOWERS, WE BUILD TRUE LEADERS.
Now, regarding the strike against the budget cut. Let me ask you UP students who shout aloud and lead marches to Mendiola, have you done your duty first? Have you fulfilled your responsibility as a child to your parents and as a student to your professors? Because if not, then drop those banners down and shut your mouths up. Go home and be an obedient son or daughter. Attend your classes and be a responsible student. Do this first. Do this, please. For heaven’s sake.
You have NO RIGHT to go out the streets, march, and shout at the top of your lungs Iskolar ng Bayan, ngayon ay lumalaban! Ngayon ay lumalaban, Iskolar ng Bayan! NOT UNLESS you have done your duty as good children and students. Believe me, you can NEVER be a responsible citizen unless you are a responsible child and student first. You can NEVER fulfill your duty to your country unless you first carry out your responsibilities to your family and to the University.
I look up to Mac Panganiban, Vice-chair of UP Manila University Student Council. He has been my classmate in our debate class last semester and he has shown real diligence as a student. I know he is also a good son and brother because as a friend, he has shared me stories about his family. Every student knows how dedicated and responsible he is as a leader so I need not talk about that. So what’s my point?
When I saw Mac a while ago at school, on his black shirt, up the stage, holding the mic and passionately talking about the budget cut and the strike, I did not see a foolish follower standing up against authority. I did not see a student leader babbling. I SAW A GOOD SON, AN EXCELLENT STUDENT, AND AN HONORABLE CITIZEN. Mac makes perfect sense of the strike because he knows he is fulfilling his duty as a son and student.
To those who rallied behind Mac this morning but do not respect their parents nor clean their rooms at home, those who shouted at the march but do not honor their professors nor submit class requirements, SHAME ON YOU. Today, you tired yourself out waving the banners and chanting at the strike, appearing to be so zealous about national issues because you yourselves know you are not caring about family and academic matters and you are not doing your duty at home and at school. YOU DO NOT FOCUS ON WHAT YOU OUGHT TO BE THINKING ABOUT AND DOING NOW.
YOU. In case you have intentions of redeeming yourself (Praise the good Lord then), please do so asap. And after you have helped your mom with the dishes and submitted your thesis to your adviser, after you have been a respectful and submissive follower to your leaders, call me up. I’ll gladly be yelling and rallying with you out the streets of Mendiola.
1 1 Peter 2:13-15
2 Matthew 7:3-5
3 1 Peter 2:18
4 Deuteronomy 5:16
5 Hebrews 13:17