I’ve wrestled with the idea of authority all my life. I’ll attribute it to my so called rebellious nature, but mostly it’s because I can’t stand not thinking for myself and being told what to think. I have learned to accept authority in my life in some cases, in other cases I have given people authority and in many cases I still challenge the authority that exists.
In 2006, I wrote a post entitled Authority: Trusting More than Yourself and even though I was in university and am embarrassed of almost everything I said and wrote then, I found myself resonating with what I said then.
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.
After writing my sermon this past week on wives and husbands and submission I have come to realize this statement in a little more depth. Jesus and Paul’s statements about power, humility and weakness seem to resonate a little bit deeper with me now. True power comes from the bottom. Power is given, not taken. Relationships are built when both people are giving and not taking. The relationships that Jesus always emphasized were the ones where power was constantly given and never taken (and never received). As soon as our conversation strays into using labels, or demanding control, or demanding someone listens, I fear that we will have missed the boat.
When power comes from the bottom, it doesn’t look like power anymore, it looks like weakness. It looks like a waste of time. It looks like we’re being walked on. It’s basically not power, and good thing, because power isn’t what we are after at all in any case. We are after relationships with our community and with God, and the only way to accomplish this is through the giving up of our own rights and power and submitting them.