This past Sunday at GFC, the preacher taught on Core Value #4: Authority. That was good for my heart to hear. When we, as elders, sat to discuss what we wanted to include in this series (i.e. What are our core values?), authority wasn’t the first thing that came to mind.
As we reflected on the biblical guidance for Christian leadership and where that intersects Canadian culture, however, we quickly realized that this was something we needed to speak to. Our culture hates authority. The very fact that one person might have the ‘right to command’ another person to do something just makes our skin crawl.
But that begs this question: Why? Why would we hate it so much and so instinctively?
To be sure, the reasons are numerous. We have seen authority ill-defined and often-abused. We’ve seen people in authority positions without authority qualifications, and that makes us question the legitimacy of it all. We’ve all be subject to authorities who have made us do things we just don’t want to do. We could go on and on.
But I would argue that there’s something more at play–something deep-seated in our very nature as humans that makes us want to either (1) reject authority and rebel against it, or, (2) seize authority and use it for our personal gain. What is it in us that makes us act this way?
I think the answer is simple: Authority is rooted in God, defined by God, is good and is a part of what it means to be God.
Since we’re created in his image, it only makes sense that we would be created to reflect this reality. But ever since the fall, we’ve done with authority what we do with every other part of the image of God in us: we either deny it or distort it.
The authority of God the Father cannot be questioned. Throughout the Old Testament, his Word stands. He declares the end from the beginning, and his will is brought to pass. In the gospels (especially John) we see that it was the Father who sent the Son. The Son speaks the words that the Father gave him to speak, and does the works the Father gave him to work.
The authority of Christ is a present reality. At the Great Commission Jesus said, ‘All authority has been given to me…’. In Ephesians 1, we’re told that Christ (after being raised from the dead) was seated at the right hand of God the Father, ‘in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion…’ with ‘all things under his feet…’.
Christ will not always hold on to that authority, however. In 1 Corinthians 15, we read that at the end of this world, Christ will hand all things back over to the Father, who is the true, ultimate authority–even within the Godhead, where all are perfect equals. Authority, then, existed in eternity past (where there was no sin) and will exist into eternity future (where there will be no sin).
This tells us why we hate authority. We hate it because we’re rebels by nature. We hate God and everything that he is. Authority is intrinsically good. Authority is a part of what it means to be God. It is not a result of the fall–rather, it is merely perverted and hated because of the fall.
As Christians, we are called to rightly reflect the image of God as we were created to. Our response to perversions of authority in the world is not to reject all authority, but to esteem and praise right authority, and to respond to bad authority rightly and humbly: by submitting ourselves to it (1 Pet 2.13-17).