What happens to authority?

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 What I would like to do is put this whole issue of authority into the bigger context of the grand narrative of scripture. I got this one roughly from Ireneaus (apologies if my memory is wrong), it starts with Intimacy in the Godhead before creation, then intimacy expanded as the God creates all creation but especially us as humans, division as sin enters the picture, division expanded as sin and it’s effects spread and corrupt, intimacy re-established happens at in Jesus life, death and resurrection, intimacy expanded as the Kingdom of God is inaugurated through Jesus and then his followers.

 So before he created the world, Christ died for us. God was prepared for whatever choice we made in the garden of Eden, he had counted the cost and paid it up front. We were then truly free to chose him or walk away from him. I love that God was never and is never scared of our sin, sadly most christians are, and sadly most leadership decisions are motivated by this fear.

God on the other hand was equally committed to loving us and reconciling us to himself. He has always wanted intimacy with us but when we sin we are trying to grab for ourselves what we don’t believe a loving God wants to give us. Sin then becomes it’s own punishment because God doesn’t need to punish us. In fact God remains committed to reconciling, ransoming, redeeming us as an act of faithfulness to his own nature and to us, and out of love for us.

In all of this even though God has all authority, he doesn’t use it or need it to establish a relationship with us that is free and full of love. I believe that there is a power that is greater than authority in this world, and it is the power of a cross shaped love. We often use authority to control, to manage and to manipulate that which scares us most. In most christian circles we are scared of others sin (funnily we are not scared of our own sin). In church we use our authority mostly over fellow christians, when our authority is meant to enforce the victory of Calvary and the Resurrection on the forces of evil, sin and death.

We also use our authority to discipline fellow christians (what we really do is punish them for sinning) but I don’t think we can know what discipline is while we need to punish sin. Jesus didn’t punish the women caught in adultery, so what grounds do we have? Can you think of 1 sinner who Jesus confronted and punished while he was on earth? I can’t but what I do see a lot is Jesus reconciling people to his Father.

Most of us, if not all, wouldn’t know how to use authority to love someone else, what does that even look like? To think about it the only way I think of using authority to love someone is by using that authority to set them free. I think of the people in The International Justice Mission who go and raid (with the help of local law enforcement) sex trafficking rings,using authority and power to set those girls free. However when we use authority in the church we use words like submission, covering, accountability, unity. Does that sound loving or like conformity and control?

Jesus didn’t put the women in the well into an accountability group, he didn’t do that to Zaccheaus either, in fact can you think of one sinner Jesus followed up on. I think he believed that if he could win their hearts, he wouldn’t have to hold them accountable, and if he couldn’t win their hearts then no accountability structure would ever work.

I am not saying we can’t have leaders in church communities (I think leadership is helpful on an ad hoc basis for projects that the community as a whole feel called to pursue), what I am saying is that we should be known by our love for each other and we don’t need authority to make that happen.

So those are my ideas, what are your thoughts?

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9 thoughts on “What happens to authority?

  1. I like that … using authority to love someone is by using that authority to set them free. God desires intimacy with us first not punishment … When we own up with real change in hearts he just wants to get on with the relationship. When you trip up in church (like I did more than once) and your mindet is “it’s not what you go through but how (in terms of reconciliation) it seems your efforts breed envy others, envy is hard to see but you can feel it. Sadly you have to move on even thou it’s hard and in hurts.

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      1. Justin, to clarify when we choose to do stuff the right way and take a narrow road which is never the easiest way. It comes at a price, my experience to stay on a narrow road was met with a certain reaction from those I journeyed with in leadership as well as other congregants. Myself and my wife battle to fit after a period of reconciliation in a church (at least that was our perception). It was only until we met outsider (missions from another country, we became friends) they point out that there were feeling of envy towards us, that’s why we felt like outsider, we were surprised, by the observation of envy of others, we never saw it that way and when a second mission we hosted a year later told us the same thing we realized we were not seeing things clearly. Our eyes were opened, that others were envious, that we had chosen a path of reconconciation and that made us become something God wants us to become and we’ve grown. Why people would be envious I’m still puzzled by but there you go. In closing when it comes to intimacy with God and other I’ve come to believe they go hand in hand in that you can’t have a “special relationship of intimacy with God” if not working it out with others, through trials, conflict and character building. Much like a letter L (for learner) if you ain’t working authentic relationship vertically you ain’t working on it horizontally either, your just super spirituallizing your relationship with God. Trust that makes sense.

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      2. I totally identify with the narrow road thing and I totally agree with you on the vertical and horizontal engagement in relationships that are loving

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  2. Great observations, Justin! It’s interesting how we like to say that Jesus is our model for life, and yet, completely miss the fact that He never once asserted His authority over others in the way that we try to. I think our (Christians/the church) obsession with authority is the main reason the world views Christians so negatively. I also think it’s the root cause behind why so many are “leaving the church.” We seem to have taken on the attitude that since we we recognize that God has all authority over the heavens and the earth, we have been given that authority to assert over others. However, the spirit in which we wield that perceived authority is sinful, as it comes from a desire to control and conform people to how WE think they should be living, and behaving, rather than a desire to see Christ living fully and freely through them.

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