FROM THE 'DEEP' END: Who’s the boss?
If you’re like me you probably don’t consider yourself a rebel. You’re a responsible adult, and you pay your taxes, you get to work on time and try not to speed. You feel like you’re a functioning member of society, but then you get that one letter from your Home Owner’s Association about how your yard isn’t edged.
What’s your first response? Is it to edge your yard right away, or is it to want to paint your entire house bright orange just give them really something to be upset about? It doesn’t even make sense. It would take way more work to repaint your house than to edge your yard, but in your mind you’ve decided now is the time to fight the power! Maybe we don’t always act on it, but it is strange the kind of ways we can react to authority in our lives. Even in the most benign moments there is something about us that doesn’t like being told what to do.
A huge part of our development as Christ followers revolves around how we handle authority. Jesus knew how to handle authority. He knew how to be in submission to the authority of His Father, but He also knew how to be in authority. We often have a problem with responding to authority because we are born into this world thinking that life evolves around our success and our efforts to make ourselves happy. When you were an infant, your only concern was to be fed and taken care of. As you grow up you become concerned about the best job you can have, the best house you can live in and the best car you can drive.
Throughout your whole life you’re going to deal with this desire to constantly seek security for yourself through your own success. If your whole life is wrapped up in what you accomplish, what you start to see is that you never arrive and your heart can never be satisfied. That is why the Apostle Paul called that attitude “Slavery to the flesh.” When we start to follow Christ, our attitude about authority changes because our worth is no longer tied to our accomplishments, but the freedom that Jesus has given us.
In Galatians 5:1 Paul says: It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
We were born as a slave, but Jesus has introduced Himself and given us freedom if we choose to accept it. But even if we choose to be a Christ Follower, there is still this desire in our nature to think, talk and act like a slave. That is why Paul cautions us to not be burdened again by slavery. Even if we know our worth is no longer tied to our work, we still have that desire to seek out our wants for our own purposes. He goes on to talk about this in verse 13:
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge in the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command; “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
Paul is saying we are free to do whatever we want, but don’t use your freedom to feed those indulgences that take us right back into being a slave. That cycle has been broken for you, so now go do something totally counter cultural: live for other people and serve people.
So what does all of this have to do with authority? Well, if you still live in that old mindset, you will always see other’s authority as a threat to your own success and happiness, and you’ll see your own authority in your life as a weapon to use against others. When we live in the spirit, we aren’t threatened by authority and we don’t have to live our lives as way to build up our own ego. Instead, we can see the authority over us is a gift from God and the authority we have is a way to provide for others.
Having that kind of attitude is not easy. It means getting up every single day and choosing not take part in petty fights or choosing to put others before yourself. But it’s the only way to truly live free.
Pastor Eric Partin is the lead pastor of Shoreline Church in Destin and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.