“Authority is quite degrading” – Oscar Wilde
I have really enjoyed meeting friends in the past few months who are agnostic or followers of a different faith. From these “coffee talks” I find myself thinking about “words’ we use as Christians that are beautiful by intention but tend to be culturally offensive. Throughout the scriptures the words “authority” and “submission” pop up frequently.
What do my new friends think when they here these words in the context of faith? My guess is that they would agree with Oscar Wilde that authority is degrading. Why wouldn’t they? The abuse of authority is everywhere in our world, in our history and in our homes. I remember as a small boy having the deepest respect for anyone in uniform. I guess I respected their authority to arrest, put out fires, preach a sermon or prescribe medicine to me. Either I was just being childish or times have changed. Respect has been replaced with cynicism and fear. My hunch is that inviting my friends to “submit to the authority of God” might go over like a led balloon. While this statement doesn’t sound warm and fuzzy,
I do find a sense of safety in it’s meaning.
When it comes to reading and understanding scripture, dad would always remind Jake and I to “read on”. A classic section of scripture that we fail to “read on” is found in Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus. The first thing we men hear is that wives should submit to their husbands. If you want to stir the pot up a little bit, go shout that verse in the middle of a mall. But in honor of my pops, we must read on. The ultimate call is to submit to God and to one another. Not exactly our culture’s motto, but I have found “beauty in my attempt to bow”.
In my search to understand the character of God, I think I sleep a bit more sound knowing that I not only believe but trust in His authority. Not because He wants to boss me around, but because he knows and wants what is best for me.
I also find it encouraging that at the most troubling point in Jesus’ life he submitted to the authority of his father. “Not my will, but thy will be done”