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The evil forces at work in this world have convinced us – even within the Church at-large, far too often – that authority is always and only bad and to be resisted.
This is a lie. It was the first lie, actually. Satan lied to Adam & Eve, in Genesis, chapter 3, when he questioned God’s authority.
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.
He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. Genesis 3:1-7
Jonathan Leeman, writing in The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love, said this about authority (I quote him at length because he concisely summarizes the authority God has given us and the reason(s) why people sometimes buck against it.)
“What a hellish lie has made humans despise the idea of authority! Divine authority grounded in holy love does not sap and steal the truly human from the human – just the opposite. It creates the human, and it authorizes the human to participate in, or mimic, that which is most satisfying – the divine life. The call to obedience is nothing more than a call into the pleasure of consciously imaging a perfect God. The rule of God’s love, his call to obedience, is a commissioning – a great commissioning. God equips us with all the tools of consciousness and creativity that we need to image him; he hands us the planet and then he authorizes us to go about living, loving, building, singing, conquering, investigating, caring, and speaking in such a way that his glory is manifested and displayed.
Human authority should be grounded in holy love in order to be and do likewise. Any authority we’ve been given, whether the authority of a father or a vice president of finance, should be used to create life and authorize rule in others. The rule others receive from us should in turn be used to create life and authorize rule in still others. And all our authority should use whatever license it has been given to point others toward this greatest of goods, God. When we point them to God, wherever he has revealed himself, we author life in them.
To jump ahead in the storyline, preaching is therefore an exercise of loving authority because it points people to God’s revelation. Discipleship is an exercise of loving authority because it seeks to see people conformed to the image of God. Evangelism is an exercise of loving authority because it points people to salvation and the rule of the ultimate king. Evangelism is the only way for others to become true rulers. We are commissioned to preach, to make disciples, and to evangelize; yet preaching, discipling, and evangelizing are themselves a kind of commissioning. If people are offended by God and his authority, should we be surprised when they take offense at preaching, discipleship, or evangelism?” (p.145)
Leeman goes on to rightly diagnose why Adam & Eve would believe and act upon their beliefs in such a way; it’s the same thing that leads us astray – our “lust for self-rule”. (p.153)
Continue onto “Part Two” by clicking here.