Viewed a certain way, some of my recent actions might seem irrational, but they actually make good sense.
- I let a total stranger tell me what to do. (He was a police officer directing traffic.)
- I paid a lot of money to place my life in the hands of someone I have never seen. (An airline pilot flew a plane across the ocean, and I was a passenger.)
- I trusted my physical safety to a teenager. (My 16-year-old granddaughter is learning to drive.)
- I met a person for the very first time, and five minutes later she stuck a needle into my arm. (A nurse drew blood as part of my annual physical exam.)
- I handed my keys to complete strangers. (Mechanics at the repair shop were going to fix my car.)
Faith is a part of everyday life. We place ourselves and our possessions in the hands of others we consider trustworthy. We surrender our wills to people we believe have the authority and expertise to act in our best interests. In a similar way, based on solid evidence, Christians consider it reasonable to trust in God.
Who Is in Charge?
Authority is an unpopular concept today. We question it (often for good reasons), but sometimes we rebel against it for less-than-righteous reasons. Authority can refer to a personwho has the final say-so, like a sheriff who enforces the law or parents who love and lead their children. A scholar who does thorough research is considered an authority on a subject. The baseball commissioner has authority to enforce league rules. Some religious groups grant too much authority to a human leader, such as the pope, a dynamic preacher, or a self-proclaimed prophet. Or we simply claim sovereignty for ourselves, and each person becomes his or her own authority, as in the days of the Judges when individuals did whatever seemed right in their own eyes. A song by country music singer Kacey Musgrave expresses this philosophy when it urges, “Follow your arrow wherever it points.”
Authority also can be wielded by a group of people. When a crime occurs, we call in the authorities (the police). As a group, members of the Supreme Court have authority to interpret the law. In matters of faith and morals, today it’s popular to submit to the whims of the current social climate, allowing our peer group to become our authority. Authority also can refer to a documentthat serves as the standard by which actions or beliefs are measured, like the U.S. Constitution that governs our nation or a staff handbook that lays down policies and procedures for workers.
After establishing his messianic credentials by rising from the dead, Jesus boldly proclaimed, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18). The wordauthorityin that verse translates the Greek exousia (from ex, “out of,” and ousia, “being” or “essence”). Authority flows out of the essence of Christ. By his very nature, he is Lord. He guides and instructs us through the Bible, the document his followers consider authoritative above any other book. Following Christ stretches our faith, but it’s a wise, rational decision. Who could possibly be more trustworthy than Jesus Christ? If he isn’t in charge of your life, then who is?
David Faust serves as the Associate Minister at East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.
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