Thursday, October 4, 2012

the powers that be...

I think I have issues with authority figures. Well, to be honest, I am sure that I have issues with authority figures. I am not opposed to authority figures or organized systems with clear leaders. I am not against supporting leaders or respecting them in their positions. In fact, I think this is very important.

But, I am not good at following blindly or going along with something simply because a leader told me to or sacrificing my own thoughts and values to adopt someone else's. Truth be told, everything in my flesh wants to rebel when I am asked to do such things. I realize this rebellion is not always appropriate, and as I [hopefully] mature, I get better at knowing when to "just go with it" and when to "fight for my party!" (Sorry, I couldn't resist the Beastie Boys reference. I am back on track now.)

I am aware that my views on authority within the church, and for Christians in general, will not be regarded fondly by some of my readership. I have no doubt that they will cite verses such as Hebrews 13:17, "Obey your spiritual leaders, and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this with joy and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit" and Romans 13:1-2, "Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished." Romans 13 continues on with several more verses regarding authority as well.

I am familiar with these verses and many others that discuss submitting to authority, in whatever form it comes. And, I know people who will argue that these authorities, regardless of how corrupt or manipulative or unjust they are, should be respected and followed. I know people who will argue that if they are not asking you directly to sin, then whatever they propose for you to do is perfectly acceptable. Stand on your head for an hour. Wear mismatched socks. Attend a prayer meeting three nights per week. Volunteer in the nursery (even if you are nauseated by the sight of boogers...of which there will be an abundance). Do not wear jeans with holes in them. Be sure not to miss more than 6 Sunday morning church services in a year...because if you do, you will be kicked out of the church-sponsored dormitory.


I am not a Biblical scholar. I am not an expert. I am not claiming to have all the wisdom of Solomon, let alone of the Almighty God. I very well could be entirely wrong on this whole thing. If indeed, it is a matter of a definitive "right" and definitive "wrong."


I am deeply grieved that the church sometimes boils the supreme authority of God down to a set of rules and ridiculous expectations. And, I can help but think that God is grieved as well. There is no life in laws and rules. Rules have a place. They protect us. They teach us and train us. They make us better people. But, when life becomes about following the "rules" or bowing to another's authority, I think we have missed the point. We missed life. God's gifts are good and plenty. He places people in our lives to sharpen us, to challenge us, to encourage us, to cry and to laugh with us, to dine with us, to teach us. I do not think that God desires for us to feel as though we are being oppressed by or a doormat for other people. I know that I have felt that way before, and it does not feel good. It is exhausting and frustrating and life-sucking. However, I have had some incredible leaders in my life in various capacities. And, those are the people I have willingly followed because I know that they are interested in me and in doing things well. They have listened to and considered my questions. They have advised me well. They have acknowledged why my idea or concern is simply not possible or best. This is encouraging and life-giving. They provided a safe, definite place without a rigid system of condemnation.

Now, if "the powers that be" could just find that balance that results in joy and life and love...

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