Tuesday, 3 April 2012

A question of Authority 2

Recently when looking at Jesus and his disciples' journey to Jerusalem and preparing to preach on Matthew 20:20-28, I was drawn into the whole question of authority and to looking at Jesus' take versus the understanding we find in ourselves.

James and John's mother was seeking to secure places of honour for them in the coming kingdom. The right and left seats next to the throne being for the most trusted advisors and thus the most powerful people other than the king in the kingdom. These would have authority given by the king to carry out his wishes.

Jesus answer has a couple of surprises. First he does not have the authority to grant these places, that remains with the Father - God. All authority is Gods and in this instance it has remained with him.

The second is that Jesus tells them that he came to serve not to be served and so this is the example that they, and we, must follow.

Exploring this in the context of church leadership and the constant wrestling with servant and leader thats goes on in church life, I read Paul's words to Timothy (especially v14-26) when advising him on leading his church. Paul clearly expects Timothy to have authority as a leader and advises careful use of that authority to correct, encourage and so transform his people.

Every one of us who owns Jesus as Lord and saviour is called to a ministry within his church, some obvious, some not so obvious. We have the ultimate example in Jesus Christ of the servant King – he calls us to follow him and learn that serving will set us free, will equip us for more works in him and will make for an harmonious and vibrant church. We each must accept that some are given authority and that such authority must be used well and carefully, servant hood is a good preparation for such authority.

We are each of us called to be servants and not rulers regardless of our calling in the church. Just as the disciples in our reading were called to be servants and not rulers and yet later would be given authority by Jesus himself. If we take this to heart there will be many fewer disagreements in church life.