Authority In The World

This probably isn’t going to be a very popular post in the little series I’m doing about how Christians relate to authority. Bible-believers like to ignore or debate around the verses that talk about how we’re supposed to respect  authority figures in the world. We’re pretty good at finding loop-holes so we can grumble about paying our taxes, complain about the President, and ignore as many “little” laws as possible (like the speed limit).

But I haven’t found any Bible verses that say it’s okay to say nasty things about people in power or rebel against earthly authority unless one of man’s laws conflicts with following God. I’m hoping in this post we can try to set aside our preconceived ideas and puzzle out what God’s instructions are and how to apply them today, rather than looking in scripture for excuses to keep resenting authority in the world.

Who Counts As Authority?

The key verses we’ll be looking at today are Romans 13:1-7, 1 Timothy 2:1-4, Titus 3:1-2, and 1 Peter 2:13-17. These verses talk about various types of human rules and rulers. Here’s a list:

  • Authorities — exousia (G1849). Authority, power, rule of government (Rom. 13:1-5; Tit. 3:1).
  • Rulers — archon (G758). Commander, chief, leader (Rom. 13:3).
  • Servant — diakonos (G1249). One who executes commands (Rom. 13:4).
  • Servants — leitourgos (G3011). Minister, a servant of the state (Rom. 13:6).
  • Kings — basileus (G935). Leader of the people, commander (1 Tim. 2:2; 1 Pet. 2: 13, 17).
  • All who are in authority — huperoche (G5247). Elevation, superiority (1 Tim. 2:2).
  • Rulers — arche (G746). Principalities, a person who is first (Tit. 3:1).
  • Be obedient — peitharcheo (G3980). To be persuaded by or obey a ruler/magistrate (Tit. 3:1)
  • Every ordinance — ktisis (G2937). Building, institution (1 Pet. 2:13).
  • Governors — hegemon (G2232). A leader of any kind (1 Pet. 2:14).

I think that covers pretty much everything. Those might not be the titles we use today, but the meaning is clear. These verses we’ll be looking at cover all types of worldly authority from your boss at work, to the lawmakers in your county, to the head of state. And we’re also told to respect the laws put in place by these people.Authority In The World | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Respect And Honor

Most of us (speaking from the perspective of a blogger in the U.S.) don’t even think about what it would mean to live in an honor-based society. We value individual freedom over the collective good. We cling to our right to express our ideas freely (a right which I’m using to post this article). We don’t like to think of people deserving respect or honor simply by virtue of their position. In fact, we often treat those with authority (or anyone who steps into the public eye) as fair-game for our nastiest comments. But God expects something different of us. Read more

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Christian Reporting Would Work Better If We Actually Talked About Facts, Not Just Fear

If you follow any sort of Christian news outlets or have Christian friends on Facebook, there’s a good chance you’ve seen headlines like, “California Bans Bible Sales.” Or, as the title of a YouTube video I recently saw states it, CALIFORNIA BANS BIBLES!

The law in question is “California bill AB 2943, a measure that puts strict limits on programs that aim to change a person’s sexual orientation. The legislation, which passed out of the state assembly and over to the Senate, bans any advertising, offering to engage in, or engaging in sexual orientation change efforts with an individual'” (PolitiFact.com).

A quick Google search will reveal that this Bill does not, in fact, ban Bibles. It doesn’t even ban churches from offering conversion therapy as long as they don’t charge for it (FactCheck.org). And the fact that Christian news outlets are relying on the false claim of Bible banning as a headline is undermining their credibility. This is click-bait at it’s worst, designed to scare Christian readers rather than start an actual dialogue about the real dangers of the bill. And anyone (even a Christian) with a logical, questioning mindset who fact-checks this claim will quickly find it’s wrong. And then why should they bother listening to what else the news article (or its source) has to say?

That’s what irritates me most about Christian response to this bill. They/we are not talking about what’s actually going on. We’re twisting facts to scare people. No wonder people accuse Christians of not being in touch with reality!

The reality is that California’s new law bars people who want to determine their own sexual orientation from getting help. It forbids people who have homosexual urges and want to change from seeking counseling, and it also stops people who could help them from offering counsel. There was already a law in place preventing “sexual orientation change efforts” for children under the age of 18, but this new bill restricts the rights of adults to voluntarily seek counselling. I’m sure the people who advocated for this law would be enraged were it reversed (forbidding people who’ve lived as heterosexual from exploring other options).

This sort of law shouldn’t just worry Christians. It should worry anyone who doesn’t want the government legislating their sex life, their access to mental health resources, or their religious expression.

The headline “California Bans Bibles” is inaccurate and misleading. It’s not responsible reporting. And it’s actually distracting from talking about what’s really going on. Why aren’t more Christian websites using a headline like, “California Restricts Adult Citizen’s Rights To Seek Counseling”? That gets to what’s actually going on and it’s something non-Christians might click on as well.

Once we’re talking about the human rights that California’s bill is restricting right now, then we can talk about the danger of it leading to more restrictions in the future. Because when a state assumes the power to dictate what sort of programs a church can offer, that’s a freedom of religion violation. And it’s not much of a leap to go from a vaguely worded prohibition against selling any program designed to change a person’s sexual orientation to banning books, which is a freedom of speech violation. This makes California’s bill a violation of everyone’s First Amendment rights. And that’s a much bigger story than the inaccurate claim that they’re banning Bibles.

Being Under Authority In The Church

When we talk about authority, we tend to sort people into groups: those who have authority and those under authority. There’s also a good chance we think of friction between these two groups — one controlling and the other resenting. But that’s not how authority is meant to work in God’s church.

I’ve started a study on how true Christians relate to authority, and if you haven’t read last week’s post you’ll want to click here and do that before reading this one. In that post, we talked about Jesus’ saying His church will be run differently than the way authority works in the world. He is the only Lord and He has all authority. The people given authority under Him are supposed to act as servants. Some, like Paul, even gave up rights they could have demanded because serving the brethren was more important than proving they had power.

As we all know (many of us first-hand) church leaders don’t always wield authority in a right and godly way. But whether they’re doing what they’re told to or not, all of us still have to respond in the ways God wants us to. We’re responsible for our own actions. So how should we respond to authority in the church, whether good or bad?

A Responsibility To Peace

Firstly, we have to remember to treat those in authority the same way we do other brethren. God wants peace in His church and among all His people, regardless of what role they play in His church.

Make my joy full, by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind; doing nothing through rivalry or through conceit, but in humility, each counting others better than himself (Phil. 2:2-3, WEB)

We’re to cultivate this kind of relationship with all our brethren, including those who are in some kind of authority position. Entering ministry doesn’t make someone fair game for your criticism or hostility. You’re still bound by the instruction, “If it is possible, as much as it is up to you, be at peace with all men” (Rom. 12:18, WEB). Read more

The Right Way To Use Authority

There’s a young adult event coming up in a few weeks that I’m planning on going to. The theme is “How true Christians relate to authority in the world and in the church.” This is a topic that’s been nagging at my mind for some time now anyway, so with this event coming up I thought it would be a good time to start studying what God has to say about authority.

I’m going to blame American/Western cultural influence for why the word “authority” sometimes rubs me the wrong way. And I’m sure I’m not the only one with that reaction, even though the Bible, not our culture, is supposed to be what’s guiding how we respond to things. But just because authority might leave a sour taste in our mouths doesn’t mean it isn’t an important concept for Christians to understand.

Who Gets To Be Lord?

One thing Jesus made clear in His earthly ministry is that authority among His people works differently than in the world.

Jesus summoned them, and said to them, “You know that they who are recognized as rulers over the nations lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you, but whoever wants to become great among you shall be your servant. Whoever of you wants to become first among you, shall be bondservant of all. For the Son of Man also came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42-45, WEB)

In the nations, rulers exercise authority and lord over people. The word “lord over” is katakurieuo (G2634). It comes from kata (G2596 — preposition meaning down, which acts as an intensive) and kurieuo (G2961 — lordship/dominion). The compound katakurieuo means having mastery over others or putting them down in subjection. Peter uses this word when telling elders how not to behave. Read more

Becoming One Flesh With Jesus Christ

Today’s post is something of a continuation to last week’s post, The Bridegroom’s Pledge. As Jesus Christ’s bride, the church is supposed to be getting ready for a marriage that will take place when He returns. If this were a human wedding, preparations for it would include things like picking a date and venue, mailing out invitations, and hiring a caterer. But none of those things are any use in preparing for a wedding to Jesus. He needs us to focus on something different, something that will strengthen a relationship He intends to last into eternity.

Diversity In Oneness

He who loves his own wife loves himself. For no man ever hated his own flesh; but nourishes and cherishes it, even as the Lord also does the church; because we are members of his body, of his flesh and bones. “For this cause a man will leave his father and mother, and will be joined to his wife. The two will become one flesh.” This mystery is great, but I speak concerning Christ and of the church. (Eph. 5:28-32, WEB)

In these verses, Paul quotes Genesis 2:24 about the husband and wife becoming one flesh. The Hebrew word for “one” is echad (H259). It’s the same word use in the Shema: “Hear, Israel: Yahweh is our God. Yahweh is one” (Deut. 6:4, WEB).

While echad can mean the number one, in these verses “It stresses unity while recognizing diversity within that oneness” (TWOT entry 61). A husband and wife don’t literally merge into a single being. And God (Elohim) consists of two Beings. But they can be called one because they’re united. That’s the sort of relationship we’re supposed to be developing with Christ. Read more

The Bridegroom’s Pledge

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you probably know my favorite way of looking at the Lord’s relationship with His people is as a love story. This seems to be one of God’s favorite analogies as well, since He weaves betrothal and marriage imagery throughout His word.

Pentecost, which takes place tomorrow, isn’t often talked about in the context of God’s love story. It’s best known among Christians as the day when the disciples received the Holy Spirit in Acts 2 and as a harvest festival from the Old Testament. But just a little digging into this day’s context within a Hebrew mindset and Jewish tradition reveals how strongly it’s connected with the love story God is writing between Him and His people.

A Promise To Come Back

The Bridegroom's Pledge | marissabaker.wordpress.com
Photo by Brooke Cagle on StockSnap

The Jewish name for Pentecost is Shavuot, which means “sevens” in reference to counting seven weeks of seven days from the Sabbath after Passover. Pentecost is then kept on the Sunday after the seventh Sabbath (hence the name “Pentecost,” which means count fifty). The root word for Shavuot is shaba, which means the number seven as well as an oath or pledge (TWOT entry 2318 and 2319).

In Jewish wedding traditions, brides are chosen by the groom’s father just as God the Father chooses whom to call into relationship with His Son. The groom pays a bride price for her, just as Jesus (or Yeshua, to use His Hebrew name) bought us with His own blood (1 Cor. 6:15-20). The betrothal agreement was a covenant, the same type of relationship that God has made with His people at least as far back as Noah. Once the bride consents to this arrangement the marriage covenant was sealed with a cup of wine, as Yeshua sealed His covenant with us at Passover (Luke 22:20; 1 Cor. 11:25).

Then the bridegroom went away to prepare a home for His bride, which is what Yeshua told His disciples He’d be doing while He was gone (John 14:1-3). A Jewish bridegroom would be gone for about one to two years before returning to claim his bride. He didn’t just drop off the face of the earth, though. He left a gift with her and made an oath or pledge to come back.

A Gift For The Bride

When Abraham’s servant found a wife for Isaac, he “brought out jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and clothing, and gave them to Rebekah” (Gen. 24:53, WEB). Similarly, Yahweh talks about the lavish gifts of clothing and jewelry He gave Israel when He entered into covenant with them (Ezk. 16:8-14). Our bridegroom, Yeshua, did something similar for us on the day of Pentecost. Read more