Why Authority? Let’s Just Love One Another

Why authority?  Because authority, rightly or wrongly expressed, affects everything else! 

  You’ve heard all the mantras.  

“You’ll only go as far as leadership takes you.” 

“The best leadership is based on persuasion.”

“Leadership is everything.”

We could list many more and all of them usually ring with some degree of truth or at least some evidence of worldly success.

Authority is lordship.  Authority is leadership.  But what if we’re doing it all wrong?  What if we, as human beings, expressing our true human nature, naturally lean toward authority as control, as demanding, as results-oriented only?

As Christ followers we are taught that authority is different—completely different.  As a matter of fact, authority, according to Christ and God’s Word, is totally upside-down from what we think it is, or maybe what we would like for it to be according to our fleshly desires.

You say, “Oh, I know that authority is humbly serving others.”  But do we? As I look around at the way most people are taught to lead—whether in their vocation, church, home, or even in positions of power—there seems to be a very familiar pattern. 

That pattern looks a lot like the 12 apostles that Jesus picked who wrestled to sit on the throne in His kingdom in Matthew 20.  If it showed up in Jesus’ handpicked disciples how much more likely are we to struggle with authority?

“Many modern churches (intentionally or not) compare their teaching to the world’s standards and claim to be sharing God’s Truth. The only standard to be held up as God’s Truth is His Word and we would do well to teach all of it as applicable!”

Authority is Lordship and Leadership?

 As stated earlier, authority, lordship and leadership are synonymous in line with their application in Scripture.  God has some very specific things to say about authority and lordship, but unfortunately we tend to overlook, ignore, or redefine it with what works best for us in the moment.  In so doing, we are almost always upside-down and missing what True Authority looks like and how we are to model and honor it. 

The first and greatest command speaks to God’s Authority, but it is often overlooked because “love,” at least in our worldly definition, is so much more pleasant to talk about and live out.  Look at what Jesus had to say when He was asked which was the most important command.

Mark 12:29-31 begins with, The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Bold emphasis mine and added)

Before Jesus talks about love and its importance, He echoes what God told Moses in Deuteronomy 6:4-5.  He states that God is alone, The One and Only, worthy of our praise and worship.  Every person hearing Moses and Jesus say that would have understood that the priority command begins with recognizing and honoring God as Lord, as The Author, The One with All Authority.  Everything else flows from this first and most important command.

Jesus clearly reinforced this before He left earth the first time in what we refer to as the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:18: ‘Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.’

If we do not understand and accept that God is The One True Authority then nothing else lines up.  We can define love and everything else the way we want.  We can call the shots and be in control or at least have the appearance of being in control.  And that’s exactly what we do when we ignore The Author and His Truth.

Beginning with the Author impacts how we love, build relationships—especially marriage and family—and how we are to go about growing His Church and advancing His Kingdom to influence the world and culture.

In order to have real leadership (authority), we should begin where God’s Word begins: All Authority begins and ends with Christ.  We seek leadership in our communities, state, and nation; in our businesses, schools, media, and churches.  Yet Scripture outlines and teaches only two places where authority—headship or leadership) is to be developed: the Home (Ephesians 5:21-33) and the Church (Christ’s Family), and it is to follow that order (1 Timothy 3:4-5). 

Far too often we see so-called ‘leaders’ (those who wield the sword and scepter rather than truly serve) pushing for power and influence in our culture at the expense of serving and ‘leading’ their marriage and family. This has led to a dearth of True Authority and leadership in our communities and country.  Maybe the absence of ‘leadership’ designation and qualities in Scripture for these other “realms” implies that true servant-leadership is to come from the home and church.

Teaching True Authority

In Matthew 20:20-24, the 12 handpicked, cream-of-the-crop apostles (picked by Jesus Himself) begin to argue over who should sit on the thrones (seats of authority) when Christ entered His Kingdom.  After all, isn’t that what they’d signed up for—to rule and reign with the King of kings and Lord of lords?

James and John had sent their mommy to ask Jesus if they could occupy the prime seats in His Kingdom.  When the other ten heard about it, the Bible says, “they were moved with indignation against the two brothers.”  Indignation is just a “Greek” (actually English) word for “ticked off.”  If these were the best that Jesus could find, then there’s hope for all of us!  Jesus knew they were the best because, while they were unlearned and prideful, they were teachable. 

And that’s just what Jesus did.  He taught them what real authority is.

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.  Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  – Matthew 20:25-28

Some translations insert the word “unbelievers” or “sinners” for Gentiles.  That’s how sinners define and exercise authority.  It should not be so with those who believe.  Jesus was the ultimate example of real authority or lordship.

There is a great temptation in our broken and fallen humanity to want to ‘rule or lord over’ others.  Real leadership comes from a humble, submissive, servant heart, not selfish ambition disguised by false humility (pride) and fleshly service to make a name, achieve a position, or gain wealth or status.  Christ’s teaching is very clear: those who truly lead are those who humbly place others above themselves and serve without expecting anything in return.  This is what Dennis in our opening story was learning.

The Essence of True Authority

Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God.  – John 13:3

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.  – Romans 12:3

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.  – Ephesians 2:10

Knowing who we are in Christ is at the heart of understanding True Authority.  He modeled it in His own life and asks us, by faith, to do the same.  Knowing who we are recreated (He changes us or makes us new) to be in Him allows us to serve without consideration for what others think, or how the world ranks or rates us.  We simply serve out of love and humility, confident and content in who we are so we can raise others above ourselves as we serve them.  This is the essence of True Authority!

Modeling True Authority

When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ (TRUE AUTHORITY) and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.  – John 13:12-17  (parentheses added and mine)

Jesus not only taught us what True Authority was, He modeled it!  And then, He stated very clearly that if we want to have any authority in our lives it is to be exercised in and through our humble serving of others.  This is how True Authority is modeled and how we are blessed as we follow His example.

Love and Lordship…Food for Thought – How does your understanding, submission to, and/or application of authority align with Christ’s teaching and modeling it?  What would your spouse, children or co-workers say regarding you in a position of authority?

Love and Lordship…Action Item – Begin with your spouse and children and make a conscious effort to lead by submission.  Ask your spouse or children how you’re doing?  This won’t come easy but in time it will be worth it as you are submitting first to Christ and His Spirit as the only way to make this happen.  You can’t consistently do this in your flesh.