Tuesday, 27 March 2012

A question of Authority

Authority and who has it and possibly more importantly, who wants it, continue to plague pretty well all organisations.  We see it in all walks of life, churches included; part of the reason behind the reformation and the arrival of non-conformist denominations has to do with who tells who what to believe or not. Interesting that today in the UK, the government continues to try to tell Christians what they should and should not believe.

Jesus was questioned about this - "Tell us by what authority you are doing these things?". The religious folks knew that they had authority over religious affairs because it had been given them "by God" hadn't it? So if they had not given this Jesus authority to do as he was doing, then it must be wrong. While the question is not answered to their satisfaction, clearly Jesus' authority came from God and he respected that authority and the responsibility that came with it.

Perhaps what the religious leaders had forgotten is that with authority comes responsibility? They were responsible for ensuring that the nation followed Gods ways and commands and yet they had instead focused on rules and regulations and their own importance. They had messed up big time.

There is a duality here and it exists regardless of the type of church governance that we have in our churches. On the one hand church leaders need authority to enable them to handle their responsibilities and so lead, on the other hand that authority, which ultimately comes from God, must be willingly given by the church and all must it accept it and its limitations.

This is often a battle ground in church as some who have not been given authority try to exercise it by various means and on the other hand those given it can mis-use it and abuse it. It is a difficult equation to get right.

The earliest model we have suggests that church leaders need certain qualities that enable them to get this balance right - they should be filled with wisdom and the Holy Spirit.

Jesus own words on the kingdom and authority give us the complete opposite to what we might think - If you want greatness in God's kingdom, learn to serve. With authority comes responsibility and if we are called to exercise it - then we must learn to serve so that we handle it well. Jesus had all authority and yet was the model servant. The servant king.

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