The next word after "Submission" in these discussions is always, "Authority." And over the last week, I finished quite a competent little post whose title ended in just that word. Well, almost finished. Actually, I got right to the end, and discovered I'd been wrong all along.
The truth hit me over the head like a chocolate orange (you know the gems - you smack the little orange on a table or some such, and it breaks into a dozen wonderful little slices of orangy chocolate?) In a surprising flash revelation, with just a hint of noggin ache, I saw a dozen ways "authority" misses the target outright.
It really made for quite an impatient day as I sat at work, and in bible study, and in a car with my son, and at lunch and a handful of other places, wishing all the while I could sit down and tell you all about it. I'm really unhappy that I have not had the time to write as much as I'd like. And my busyness comes at just the time that I really need the sincere distraction of typing something joyful and amusing.
But, here I am now, so I may as well get on and start enjoying the moment!
I wrote my poor, doomed little post on this passage:
24 A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. 25 Jesus said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. 26 But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. 27 For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. 28 You are those who have stood by me in my trials. 29 And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, 30 so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
This little speech of our Lord's actually appears in all three of the synoptics. Matthew, Peter (Mark) and Luke all devote a number of verses to it. I knew as I typed that I was nattering on about something that Jesus and three of his best biographers agreed was important. And it's easy to natter on about authority using this passage, because Jesus directly uses the word and says the equivalent of "Bad pastor! Naughty, naughty pastor, claiming authority over your flock like that. Off to bed with you, after you finish cleaning up your whole congregation's dinner plates and sweeping up the crumbs and giving them to the poor somewhere."
The only problem with that little conceit is that it leaves off the whole "Oh, and judge the 12 tribes of Israel while you are at it" thingy that He said there at the end.
Nattering while nagging myself with niggling notions that I've not nailed the nuance of a narrative drove me nutty. So, I was greatly relieved when I finally made it down to commenting on verses 29 and 30. Looking at the verses that were distracting me let me scratch that itch.
No one could have been more surprised than I, though, when they came clear for me. I look at a passage for nigh unto thirty years, and the last thing I expect is to suddenly see something completely new. The bible is truly a joy.
Leaders in the church are not to take authority over it's members; leaders are to judge them.
At first, I felt much like you probably do now. That's rather a step up in the brutality scale, isn't it? My mind shied away from such a stern word, but there it was in black and white. ...judging the twelve tribes of Israel
Oh, I know. Everyone thinks this is all for another dispensation, but think it about it for a second. It really isn't. There was no church when Jesus said these words, and after Jesus had risen again Paul went on a great deal about how the church is spiritual Israel. The kingdom of God is here now, and has been since the Spirit fell down on those brothers and sisters in the upper room two millenia ago. These disciples were eventually given the keys to the kingdom, and they were to bind and loose things on earth as God willed in heaven.
They exercised judgement in the kingdom of God, exactly as Jesus said they would.
Do you want some examples of leaders in the church judging?
1 Tim 1:20 Hymenaeus and Alexander are among them, and I have delivered them to Satan, so that they may be taught not to blaspheme.
Acts 5: 3 Then Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the proceeds from the field? 4 Wasn't it yours while you possessed it? And after it was sold, wasn't it at your disposal? Why is it that you planned this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God!" 5 When he heard these words, Ananias dropped dead, and a great fear came on all who heard. 6 The young men got up, wrapped his body, carried him out, and buried him. 7 There was an interval of about three hours; then his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 "Tell me," Peter asked her, "did you sell the field for this price?" "Yes," she said, "for that price." 9 Then Peter said to her, "Why did you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look! The feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out!" 10 Instantly she dropped dead at his feet.
1 Cor 5: 3 For though absent in body but present in spirit, I have already decided about him who has done this thing as though I were present. 4 In the name of our Lord Jesus, when you are assembled, along with my spirit and with the power of our Lord Jesus, 5 turn that one over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the Day of the Lord.
2 Thess 3:14 If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of him. Do not associate with him, in order that he may feel ashamed.
2 Cor 13: 2 I already gave you a warning when I was with you the second time. I now repeat it while absent: On my return I will not spare those who sinned earlier or any of the others,
Now those are not the most fun passages the bible has to offer, but they are silent on something very profound. Those are passages that speak of discipline being exercised on people who walk unworthy of their calling. But I cannot think of any passages in which authority is exercised. And that makes sense, since Jesus goes out of His way to teach His disciples not to do so! Judgement I see, but authority is rebuked as strongly as it is encouraged.
Let me see if I can draw a picture of the difference between judgement and authority. Let's do a roleplay with two daddy's named Judgement and Authority, and a little boy.
The little boy is in the kitchen, ice cream is in the freezer and trouble is on the horizon. Each of our daddy's looks at the little boy and says, "I'm leaving now, but don't touch the ice cream." The little boy asks, "Why, Daddy?"
Judgement answers, "I want you to enjoy the ice cream, and I want you to enjoy your dinner too. To do that, you have to eat them in the right order, so you may have no ice cream until after dinner."
Authority answers, "Didn't I say I'm leaving? I'm your father and I told you not to touch the ice cream, so don't touch it. Hush now, and do what I say."
Of course, little boys being little boys, he does what little boys do and he snatches an ice cream. Daddy's being daddy's, though, they each catch the little boy red-handed and chocolate-lipped.
Judgement says, "I see you didn't really want dinner. You wanted ice cream, instead. But you shouldn't eat sugar without some real food in your stomach too, so you had best wash the rest of your ice cream down the drain. And since you didn't want dinner, you can go to bed without it tonight."
Authority says, "I thought I told you no ice cream! I'm here to grow you into a righteous man, so when I talk, you'd better listen, and you'd better do what I say! [Insert tedious lecture here.]"
Our two daddy's, Judgement and Authority, each speak from equal authority, but Judgement bases his power on sound fact and fairness. Authority bases his power on his role and good intentions toward the boy. Authority reminds the little boy that he is acting in the boy's best interests, and that he is in fact the boy's "Benefactor". Jesus did not like that, as you will recall. Judgement simply assesses the facts, draws a teaching conclusion, and enforces it.
You might know Judgement's style as, "Speak softly, and carry a big stick."
Very little wiser has ever been said by uninspired men.
Authority tends to have a bad case of Verbal Diarrhea. Everything authority does seems to be attended with a stern lecture, and lots of reminders of how important submission is. Which is really quite funny, because a lot of what authority says is absolutely true. It's almost all true. Especially the part about submission.
The title of this post should be "Leadership: Submission and Judgement". The only reason it isn't is because that would have spoiled the only little bit of surprise I really had. Submission is still in the title, though, because we need submission. We need the discipline of submitting, and we need the blessings that we gain from those in authority over us.
Whether our rulers rule with Authority or Judgement, and we know which one is more pleasant, it is still our business to submit to them. I would only add that we should submit to them with judgement. No judgement is required in submitting to the Lord Jesus, but even if you could submit to Charles Haddon Spurgeon (one of my heroes - where everyone else loves CS Lewis, I love Spurgeon - for purposes of this example you could trust him. :-) Even if you could submit to Mr. Spurgeon himself (I love that he was Mr. Spurgeon - not pastor Spurgeon, or Reverend Spurgeon, or something even more hideous), you had best do it with judgement. We are to submit one to another, but not to be mindlessly enslaved one to another.
So, to summarize the whole leadership series (for those who might have forgotten parts of it, since I started it way back in May)
Leadership is the opposite of denial. Leadership sees problems and takes meaningful steps to correct them while it is still early enough. Leaders need to know when to act, but they also need to know when to be patient and encourage confused people. Older leaders are better at this. They have a better eye for when someone needs to jump in and do something, and when everyone needs to just chill and let a situation work itself out. They know this stuff because they have been through some high water in their lives. They know that sometimes it's the still waters that should scare you, and sometimes thick frothing rapids are nothing but a little tantrum.
Leaders should care more about people than doctrine, and though they should be able to teach sound doctrine, they should know it well enough to teach it for the purpose of building character. They should know that it is a life pattern of good works that shows a living faith in Christ, much more than having all the creeds down pat.
To this end, it is good to make sure that your senior leaders are just that, seniors. When your leaders are all young and highly gifted, everyone is at risk. The gifts are a great blessing to the church, but they are also a destabilizing influence. Young, gifted men are as dangerous as they are rewarding to have in leadership. Give them responsibility, but not all at once. Let them grow into it a bit. Let them grow slowly.
And finally, leaders should lead by judgement, not by authority.