Posted by: dacalu | 21 March 2010

Claiming Authority

“When the crowds saw it, they were filled with awe, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to human beings.” Matthew 9:8

What authority do you have? And what authority have you been given? Sometimes, when I look at our society, I wonder if this is not our besetting sin – our failure to claim our authority, to take responsibility for it and for the actions it entails.

I’ve been reading Hayak’s book, “The Road to Serfdom,” which has many excellent things to say about economics, but it takes as a fundamental assumption, the idea that we are first and foremost >individuals<, an idea quite contrary to the Gospel. Certainly, our individuality is important, and I value what it has brought us: social mobility, freedom of conscience, independence from our families – and yet, I think we must also recognize that there are costs. The abundance of choices leads to existential angst and loneliness. It separates us from others and makes us feel apart. It places the weight of our choices fully on our own shoulders.

Perhaps that sounds good, but it is not, for the burden of life is (and always has been) more than any one person could bear. We are responsible for others, because we have power over them. We require the aid of others, as much as we might wish otherwise.

In Genesis, God gives us dominion over the earth. Christians have always recognized that this is a form of stewardship on our part. A few Enlightenment theologies aside, we recognize that "the Earth is God's and all that is in it." So we are to tend it, and care for it, as a servant cares for his mistress's house while she is away. In other words, being created in the image and likeness of God – with creativity, intelligence, memory, reason, and skill – gives us authority over the earth. How do we exercise this authority?

When was the last time you checked up on the status of the world and said to yourself, "Gee, I really should do something about that"? When was the last time you recognized your own power and authority?

Christians have an even greater power, for we have been given the good news of Christ Jesus – that all might be saved. We have been given the power of forgiveness and the burden of joy. What kind of stewards are we if we do not share these gifts with those in our care? (Matthew 24:45-51*)

You have this authority. You have wisdom and power, if only you will claim and use it. Too often we hide behind our independence. "She can take care of herself." Perhaps she can, but that does not mean she must. "He isn't my responsibility." I might not control him, but that doesn't mean I cannot look after him. We hide behind the notion that others do not need, or want, or appreciate our help. And yet, we can feel our own needs. We notice when others do not help us. What would it take to reach out?

Worse yet, we hide behind professionalism. As doctors and lawyers, teachers and priests (and many other professions), it can be easy to say "I have this responsibility and nothing more." In corporations we look after the money flow. In universities we look after our reputation or our discipline. In the church we look after the institution. These are all good things, but not the only things. In the end our responsibility will be to people and to creation. We are responsible for, and to, the whole; for, and to, the individuals. When our profession shows us our obligations, it is a great thing. When it blinds us to our greater calling, it is an idol.

So, I'd ask you to take inventory. If you have it (knowledge, power, wisdom, property), share it for the good of all. If it isn't worth sharing, it isn't worth having.

*[‘Who then is the faithful and wise slave, whom his master has put in charge of his household, to give the other slaves* their allowance of food at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives. Truly I tell you, he will put that one in charge of all his possessions. But if that wicked slave says to himself, “My master is delayed”, and he begins to beat his fellow-slaves, and eats and drinks with drunkards, the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour that he does not know. He will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."]

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