To venable (verb): To randomly muse upon this and that.

Archive for the ‘Authority’ Category

Meeting People At Home

One of the key means by which Christians are called to build up relationships with one another is through hospitality. Very often the best way, but not the only way, of achieving this is by welcoming people into our homes.

I wrote yesterday about my perception of the way the government’s policy in response to the coronavirus outbreak has been working out. I specifically contextualised this in the context of churches. Please read that here. In that piece I emphasised the difference between “shoulds” and “musts”. The understanding of these terms also has a bearing upon how we can exercise hospitality now.

A consulting of the relevant document about meeting with people from other households, which is here, places the statement about who and how we can meet people in the “should” category. This means that it is not a matter of law and mandatory, but rather strongly advised. I wrote about the implications of the “must” and “should” terms yesterday (see here). Accordingly, it may be unwise to have more than one household to your home, but not illegal.

In all this we need to remember the essential thrust of government policy is to “stay alert” so as to “stop the spread”.

One further issue we need to thoughtful of is the impression that we are giving to our neighbours. We need to consider that our neighbours may have no awareness of the nuance between “musts” and “shoulds”. If our neighbours are continually seeing different people going in and out of our homes they may be alarmed at the way we are conducting ourselves. We may feel we are exercising due caution and wisdom. However, we need to be thoughtful about the impact upon our witness before them.

Let us not forget though in all this that we are called into a community of faith as believers. We need each other and proper social interaction is a means of facilitating this. We are called to exercise hospitality.

We go forward seeking to be wise and honour the Lord at this difficult and confusing time.

God, Authority And Us

We live in what might generally be called an anti-authoritarian age. Respect for authority in our culture is diminishing. This is indicative of a culture that has stopped respecting God. It alarms me that this attitude seems to have crept into the church.

Let me give you two Scriptures to ponder upon:

  • Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God (Rom. 13:1).
  • Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord (Eph 5:22).

So in two realms that of marriage and society God is involved in our attitude to those in authority. So I immediately l ask the question: How can you say that you have deep respect for God when you fail to honour and respect those who are in authority?

I want to notice further that the Word in the quoted Scriptures does not say that acting honourably towards and subjecting to authorities is only to be to good governing authorities or husbands. No! our default attitude is to respect all in authority.

I also notice that there is no get-out clause in these scripture. What I am referring to is any clause that says: if they ask you to do something wrong then you should not submit to them. No! These Scriptures have a universal claim.

The basis reason for this is that all of our life is framed on the basis of authority.  If there is no authority structure in place then there is anarchy and nothing is able to function.

Moreover, God is the ultimate authority figure. We show that we respect God by respecting authority. To say “we fear God” and refuse to subject ourselves to authority is hypocritical.

As you are reading this you are possibly crying out what about Acts 5:29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. My concern is that Christians are racing to this Scripture with undue haste as our anti -authoritarianism urges us to want to escape any claim the authorities have over us.

Please be aware that I believe that this scripture does matter and does place a boundary on the authority people have over us.

This all brings me to our present situation and how Christians have responded to the authorities during this time of the coronavirus outbreak. All the agitation and murmurings and promotion of disobedience smacks to me of a decidedly ungodly spirit which does not recommend the gospel of Christ. Christian people deny their Lord if they have an authority rejecting spirit.

And finally don’t forget our Lord. Yes our Lord subjected himself to his parents; And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart (Luke 2:52).

 

Supporting Decision Makers

God has determined that His purposes are outworked through authority structures. He is the authority above all authorities. All works well when He is acknowledged to be such and submitted to as the One who always makes the right call on any matter because, after all, He is God. Questioning His decisions is always a futile and worthless endeavour.

But what of lesser authorities who are not blessed with infallibility? How should we respond to them? Decision making is a part of leadership and exercising authority. Parents, especially fathers, husbands, employers, governments and church elders are all examples of those God has ordained to take leadership roles.

If we are godly then our inbuilt disposition is to support those who are in positions of God-ordained authority. Whenever this is not so it is an indication of rebellion.

Those in authority positions are called upon to demonstrate their calling through making decisions. All of us have responsibility to support them in this, particularly when their decisions making is undertaken in a realm that affects us.

There will inevitably be times when these decision-makers make decisions which are neither godly, good or helpful. We may consider such to be the case and be right and justified in our conclusion. The problem comes when we make a big show of demonstrating that the decision-maker is wrong.

We should remember that decision-makers are to be supported in their decision-making. This does not mean that we applaud bad decisions, but it does mean that we are careful not to make a song-and-dance about the failures of those in authority in making decisions.

A deflated decision-maker is likely to shun making further decisions and that is bad for all. We need to encourage those in authority to make decisions. The adage that “a bad decision is better than no decision” has some credibility. We should encourage parents, employers and church leaders in making decisions.

Furthermore, we have to remember that in making their decisions they generally have access to far more information than we have. We may see flaws in a decision, which would soon be swept away if we knew the full facts.

So I say to wives, children, employees, church members be careful how you react to the decisions of those over you in the Lord. Your causing a hullabaloo about a decision may ultimately cause a lot of harm because you undermine the confidence of those in authority.

Finally though, if decision-makers are making decisions to exploit others and aggrandise themselves. then they need to be called out for their nefarious activity and called to account.

Happy To Be Wrong.

Some leaders are a menace because they always have to be right. Such people are generally quite insecure because if they are found to be wrong they feel themselves to be threatened. It is my persuasion though that leaders should be happy to be wrong. Leaders should be happy to lose arguments.

Now I am not talking here about matters of principle, particularly those established by scripture. We should not be prepared to be wrong about those issues. If we are prepared to accept being wrong on such issues, we are truly untrustworthy people. But we should be happy to be overruled on matters of procedure; if others have a better way of doing things we should be happy to accept that. Another instance would be when when we have simply misunderstood a situation we should not obfuscate the matter rather we tell openly of our wrongness.

This is refreshing for those under our care because if we defy the evidence and deny our wrongness then we just lead to them being exasperated. Which leads me to ponder upon the scripture Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord (Eph 6:4). Parents should be willing to own up on the occasions when they are proven to be wrong. If they don’t then they will exasperate their children.

We win so many over to our leadership if they realise we are honest people who do not just force our will upon others. Lets us not exasperate our people / children through our leadership, but rather delight them and encourage them through our willingness to accept when we are wrong. There is a sense in which leaders should lead in acknowledging their failure and wrongness.

Influence.

How are you influencing those under your influence? Let us ponder upon what is said of King Ahaziah in 2 Chronicles 22:3 He too followed the ways of the house of Ahab, for his mother encouraged him to act wickedly. Ahaziah was influenced for bad by his mother.

Now there are many people who come under our influence to a greater or lesser extent. In family, church, work and so many areas there are a lot of situations happening which lead to influence being exerted. Generally it is the older, more experienced and people of higher ranks of authority which are doing the bulk of influencing. But there is a lot going on between peers and siblings and church members and in all kinds of relationships.

What I want to ask amidst all these situations is what kind of influence are you having? Are you prompting people to go in a good way or a bad way? Is our lifestyle, instruction and advice to encouraging people in the ways of God or the ways of the world?

What a sobering thing it is that in Scripture Ahaziah’s mother is seen as an influencer unto wickedness for her son.

I do want to exhort parents, church leaders and employers to think about the influence they are having. You are having an influence whether you like it or not.

So let us all just stop and think about the influence we are having upon others. Parents how are you influencing your children. Church leaders how are you influencing the church? And in all the other relationship structures you are involved, what is the influence you are having?

 

Reinforcing Authority.

Christian people are a people who have submitted to The Master. We are a people who have happily placed ourselves under the authority of God. Our whole faith is governed by the motif “Jesus Christ is LORD”. And as we journey into our faith we realise that all hangs together under God. Authority structures are crucial for the proper ordering of God’s creation and God’s church. Clear demonstration of this is given in Paul’s statement in Romans 13:1 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.

Christian people have it as part of their DNA to act and uphold the authority structures that God has put in place. Whether, it be the nation, the workplace, the home or the church the godly believer finds himself wanting to honour authority.

So when we go into a home we will be supporting and praying for the Father as He seeks to lead that home with his wife as his essential helper. So if they have to discipline one of their children we act to support them in this necessary out working of their responsibility.

Similarly in the workplace we are those who honour the bosses knowing that in doing so we are acting in a way that is honouring to God. Elders in our churches are similarly to be honoured and respected for the work God has called them to.

We are not to be numbered thereby among those who are insubordinate. 

Thoroughly Investigate.

In Deuteronomy 17:2-7 we read of how justice needs to be undertaken in respect of those who have forsaken the Lord in committing idolatry. One important part of this process is to make sure that a careful investigation is undertaken so we read these words of how the judges and officers respond to an accusation: if this has been brought to your attention, then you must investigate it thoroughly (Deut. 17:4).

This is such an important principle for all who are in positions of authority to have in mind. Parents, bosses, church elders, school teachers, prosecuting authorities should all bear this in mind. It is so easy to reach swift judgements without a careful investigation. So if we are lacking in wisdom as parents, we will hear a shouting voice clammerimg for attention and immediately will respond to dish out our summary judgement so as to deal with the matter. But if there has been no proper investigation then the outcome can be worse than the beginning. The wrong punished innocent feel aggrieved and the wrongly excused villains think they can get away with it next time with similar tactics.

So we must make sure that we investigate properly. Stop and listen and find out and ponder. Then decide what to do. and then we must act. In Deuteronomy 17:4b-5 we read If it is true and it has been proved that this detestable thing has been done in Israel, take the man or woman who has done this evil deed to your city gate and stone that person to death. This reminds us that the investigation must end and that a judgement has to be passed and appropriate punishment carried out. In this instance it was the stoning of the one guilty of idolatry. The important thing I want to concentrate on here is not the punishment but the fact that punishment was undertaken.

So if you are in authority make sure that you thoroughly investigate every accusation you have to deal with, reach a decision and then implement the relevant judgement.

More on this is at the sermon here

Steve Hansen Interview.

It was interesting to watch this interview with Steve Hansen after the All Blacks lost to The British and Irish Lions last Saturday. It seems to me that it should be compulsory viewing for all English Premier League (EPL) managers in the UK. What a difference to the usual griping, carping and complaining about the other team and the officials that you get in interviews from losing managers after EPL matches.

It is just beautiful to hear his straightforward acceptance of the decisions made by the referee and acceptance of the difficulties faced by the referee. And the captain Kieran Read comes out of it very impressively as well.

And I am left thinking about the impact of this sort of thing. It is so valuable because it reinforces the authority of the referees. He is the one in charge; he is the one who does his best to make decisions according to his best judgement. This attitude is picked up by youngsters, in particular, and a respect for referees is developed. And this is for the good of all playing the game.

In the EPL, with all the negative stuff against referees which is retailed by those who should know better, it leads to negative attitudes to referees which percolates throughout the game. So see here for a report on the perils of being a referee.

This leads me further to ponder upon the fact that Christianity is an authoritarian faith which flows from  a God who has established structures of authority for the wise government of his universe. We should always be supporters of those in authority. We should realise that when there is an undermining of those in authority then destructive forces are let lose.

So well-done Steve Hansen! Give Him a knighthood for services to decency!

Attitude to Scripture.

The Lord says it, therefore I believe it and so I do it. That, I suggest, should be the attitude of the true believer to Scripture. Alas for many believers the attitude seems to be the Lord says it, I will consider whether it is convenient for me and then I will decide whether to act upon it.

I am musing upon this theme in the light of the alarming observation that many who claim to be evangelical seem to have an equivocal attitude to Scripture. Their reasoning seems to be along the following lines. If the Scripture fits in with their conclusions then all well and good. If Scripture does not fit in with what they want then it is most unlikely that God speaking through His Word will “win the day”.

Such people may profess to be evangelical in that they believe that the Scriptures are the inspired oracles of God. But by their response and action they deny this.

What is going on here? Many I think are unwittingly saying that they know better than God. Here is how it goes. As an evangelical they have to accept the authority of Scripture. However, by their refusal to bow to Scripture and rather choose what they implicitly believe to be a better way they are saying that they know better than the Lord.

To which the challenge comes to me: am I consistent in my evangelical profession. Am I “The Lord says it, therefore I believe it and so I do it” person? I should be; otherwise i am a hypocrite.

Dealing With Authorities.

Over the last five hundred years the moral framework of the United Kingdom has been determined by biblical values. At the heart of society therefore there has been a desire to uphold truth. Connected with the determination to uphold truth has been the commitment to reliability. Hence we have the phrase: an Englishman’s word is his bond. As a result of this there was always an expectation that when dealing with authorities there would be a straightforwardness about their approach.

Further, the historic Christianised development of our society has meant that people were inclined to be helpful. The essence of love in Christianity percolated into society so that those in authority had a tendency to give assistance to those in need..

Alas things have shifted. Two particular influences increasingly dominate in our society. They stem from Humanism and Islam. My postulation is that these two ideologies have led to the following developments:-

  • Humanism inevitably puts self-interest before truth. Accordingly we see increasingly when dealing with authorities a tendency to “cover-my-own-back”. Rather than being concerned with a desire to uphold and convey truth, people now want to make sure that there is no come-back upon them. Accordingly, people will deviously operate whether that be in verbal or written communication. People no longer are driven by truth and helpfulness. Just as long as the file looks good for them then all is well. It does not matter how many people have suffered and been messed around along the way.
  • Islam. An essential aspect of Islam is that of maintaining honour. Islamic families, for example, are driven by a desire to uphold family honour. Aa a result, we hear of “honour killings” which are undertaken when someone is seen to have brought shame to their family. The murder is seen as removing the shame and being the means through which honour is maintained. Accordingly, when this thinking manifests in a society there is not a priority to uphold truth and helpfulness. The driving motive is that “I must maintain my honour and so there must be no shame on me and upon my family.”

All of this means, I suggest, that dealing with authorities will be become more and more difficult; Frustration will increase through people not returning calls and people failing to keep their word. Bullying will be experienced as the authorities, who want to cover their own back or maintain honour, will want to get their way rather than be helpful.

Accordingly, I feel our whole expectations need to change. Historically, we have expected the authorities to be on our side, helping us to resolve issues. More and more i suspect that we can expect  them seeking to do that which is their own interests.

 

Tag Cloud