Authority: Trusting More than Yourself

The idea of authority has always been something that has continually been running through my head. I had a few authority figures that should never have been in authority positions and a few others that I’m glad were. I’ve wrote a few things on authority in the past when a good friend of mine was trying to figure out what it looked like to be under authority of someone who was demanding it, or if they should be under their authority at all. I think my definition of what authority looks like might be growing a bit. I’ve always has trouble with authority because it meant that possibly I would have to give up my way; of course my way always seems like the right way, or else it wouldn’t be the way I choose. To actually give up and go in a way that you don’t think is the right way is a very humbling experience.

Authority to me is not power. It is not something that can be hung over someone’s head or something that can be misused. Authority, in my understanding is not something that the person with authority chooses to have or not. Authority is something that can only be given to someone by the person who is going to be under that authority. Authority is a decision by the person under it, not by the person administering it. This is why I think authority is one of the most fundamental concepts that a Christian can hold. Christ has given us freedom, and we need to use that freedom to give him authority.

Authority is when I can trust someone more than myself. This is why it is so hard to actually be under authority. It is very hard for most people, including myself, if not impossible for me to trust someone else more than I trust myself. When I trust myself it is easy. I know everything about my decision from my point of view so of course mine makes the most sense every time. It is important though, for us as humans, as Christians to give authority to people in our lives. It is important for me to trust someone else more than I trust myself. This is how community works. The authority figures are not the ones who want power or who even want authority. Authority figures are those that have been given authority by the community that is under their authority. It is the recognition that the community trusts that person more than they trust themselves. No wonder so many church leadership structures are messed up. They are full of those that are demanding or have ‘worked their way up’ to the top. If the leaders in the church can’t be leaders outside of a title, they probably shouldn’t be there. You can tell the leaders in your community by looking for people that the community trusts more than themselves, not by how loud they are or their great ideas.

There are very few people in my life that I would give authority in my life, that I could actually trust more than myself. I think that number needs to increase. I hope to be humble enough that when the going gets tough I can trust these people more than I trust myself. It is only through authority that we can follow Christ. It is only through authority that we can live in community. It is only through authority that we can be humbled enough to admit that we aren’t the best in the world.

9 Comments

  • Our constant struggle eh Nate?

  • Well since we live together and you live in the basement and I on the top floor, does my position above you sympolize my status and thus my authority over you?

    BTW – I fixed the sink – all by myself – but I cut my finger in the process :(

    Also, the sound system is dope. Muahaha

    Since I am your authority, I expect that you will be making dinner for us.

  • Interesting thoughts on authority

  • Nathan,

    Hope you enjoyed your vacation!

    I am wondering how Paul’s very powerful words in Romans 13:1 etc help frame your understanding of what it means to willingly place yourself under authorities…even when they are as wicked as Pharoah?

    “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.”

  • Hey Paul, maybe you can help me by rephrasing your question?

    While Paul is talking about government structures my post more focused on the individuals and who….who is authority, why are they authority, what makes someone an authority in your life? Maybe you can help explain a bit more of where your question was leading? I feel that what Paul was talking about in the verse you pointed out is vastly different from what I was talking about in that post.

  • Hey Nathan.

    We loved having you on the Manitoulin for a little rest…….and games. Yes, we do go to bed early. :D
    Come again when you need a rest, or canoe, or boat ride, or family games….or just quiet time.

    G_M

  • It is quite possible I misunderstood you. I was thinking of what you wrote here: “Authority is something that can only be given to someone by the person who is going to be under that authority. Authority is a decision by the person under it, not by the person administering it.” The authority that Paul describes in Romans 13 is definitely civil governing authorities. I thought you were including this type of authority in what you were describing… so my question was trying to understand what you meant in your post by authority being something we decide. In the Romans 13 reference, clearly it is God who decides who the authority is… and I wasn’t sure how that worked with what you were saying. But if you did not have civil authorities in mind, then it could be I am once again missing the boat!

  • I understand where your coming from better now, and I think we were just looking at it from two different angles, and to be honest, I don’t even know how to explain it that much.

    I fully adere that there is governing authorities in my life in Canada, Ontario etc etc and yes they are an authority figure.

    I do wonder though, what is the use of calling them an authority if we don’t listen to them? While i wasn’t getting at the governing authorities in that post, your question has got me thinking about how authority works. Whether we call someone an authority figure or not, if we don’t listen to them and (for lack of better words) give them that authority, how much authority do they really have? I think maybe there is a difference in the word authority when we say Jesus has all authoirty in heaven and on earth, and when we say governments have authority. I now wonder what the difference is in that word and what that looks like.

  • In political theory there is a helpful distinction between “authority” on the one hand, which is perhaps best defined as “something which provides reason for acting”, and “legitimacy” on the other, which is the reaction of the subject(s) to that authority (recognizing it as such).

    So, Jesus has all authority (that is, He is a sufficient reason to act in a certain way (the way of discipleship) in the face of all other possible reasons to act in another way), but has not received “legitimacy” in the minds of unbelievers. (This is not, of course, an excuse, because Jesus has been made an objective/real authority by the Creator of objective reality; a failure to recognize his legitimacy is not an expression of a morally neutral decision of the will, but a sign of a defect of understanding and will which does not recognize or love what is real/good, i.e. Jesus.)

    Other kinds of leaders receive their authority in different ways (only Jesus received His in the Resurrection from the dead). Some are genuinely the product of our will (for example, when a class decides who will be their president), but others are not. Political leaders do not fall in that category, as they are ultimately given to us by providence (as Romans 13 says) and *recognized* (i.e. given legitimacy) by us as such.

    The case of church authorities will be partly decided depending on your view of what kind of church government is correct (if you are a Congregationalist then all authority for appointing elders , or whatever you want to call them, falls back on the congregational will; if you are Catholic that is not the case, etc.).

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