11 January 2018

The Right Use of Authority


When Jesus taught He spoke with authority. In fact, it was one of the things people commented upon when they heard Him. He didn’t support his statements with quotes from other authorities, as a rabbi would usually do. He was authority incarnate - the Word of God made flesh. When He spoke, God spoke. When He commanded even the demons obeyed.

So what about "authority"? The word comes from the Latin auctoritas, which is related to the word augere, which means "to increase; to make bigger.” A person who is given authority is not supposed to be someone who wields coercive power over others. The exercise of genuine authority is not to control, or to keep people in line; rather, to have authority is to be someone who helps people reach their full potential.

So, when parents exercise authority over their children, it should be done in such a way as to help them to become better. When the clergy exercise authority, it should be to help those under their charge to become more and more of what God intends them to be.

This is the kind of authority Jesus showed perfectly. He invited people to follow Him, and to be more like Him. He came to serve, and not to be served. He came to give life, life in its fullness. He came to lead people into the full development of all they were created to be.

We can tell the difference between the good exercise of authority and the bad exercise of authority. Is it making us better people? Is it helping us to become what God wants us to be?

Authority is not a weapon to inflict random decisions upon people. It is a tool, given by God, to help us know what is good and right and true, so that we may embrace and do those things.