By What Authority

By Not Known

I grew up in an era in the West when authority in all its forms was being radically challenged. The authority of the monarchy, of government, of the forces of law and order, of teachers and schools and of the church was being collectively questioned. And traditions were under threat and scrutiny in many different areas of society from music to morality.

This questioning of authority coincided with the first explosion in mass communication. Radios, TVs, telephones and air transport suddenly changed our world from local to global. That explosion of communication has now expanded, and has become not just a Western phenomenon, but a worldwide one. People in one part of the world can see and hear instantly of news in another part of the world. And there is a worldwide questioning going on. No longer are political, cultural, educational, religious and family traditions accepted automatically. And it leads to conflicts, suspicions and misunderstandings between peoples and races, between generations and between differing religious and political beliefs.

Authority can come from different sources. It can come from our position or office, whether as a manager, a politician, a policeman, or in the case of the church, a minister or elder. It can also come from our knowledge and expertise. We talk of a person being an authority in their particular field of work or study. But it can also come from our relationships, particularly our family relationships. There is that wonderful authority of love when we are courting whereby we will do anything to please. There is usually a slight change of emphasis after marriage! Position and office, knowledge and expertise, and relationships of love and respect all have authority, sometimes independently, sometimes together.

But what is our Christian authority? This month we are looking at mission. We are used to quoting the Great Commission to go into all the world… But these words of Jesus are prefaced with “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me.” That is some claim. From the beginning of His ministry, Jesus displayed an impressive authority. The first reaction to His teaching, Mk 1:22, was “that he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.” His authority was first-hand, not second-hand, because His authority came from God. His authority was also from the knowledge and experience of life. Jesus spoke to people in life pictures and examples they could relate to. But above all His authority was an authority of a relationship of love.

People will accept authority which is forced on them by position, status and office only with reluctance. But they will always accept an authority that stems from love. Children will accept authority from parents when it stems from love. So the authority of love is at the heart of mission, love of God and love of others. God wants us to love people as people, not just as numbers to be converted.  The basis of our giving in mission, whether in prayer, money or time is love ― God’s love for us and God’s love for His world.  

Derek Kingston