The Best Approach to Authority

A reading for Monday, June 2, 2014: Matthew 8:5-17.

The centurion in Capernaum recognizes immediately that Jesus is a man, like him, under authority. What does that mean to you?

If we look up the definition of authority using Google, there are three definitions. One, a person with the power to give orders. Two, a person having control over something or someone. Third is the power to influence others because of one's commanding manner or recognized knowledge about something or someone. Perhaps all apply...

Yet, I wonder if the third definition is most fitting for both Jesus and the centurion. Clearly this centurion has power and control, but he is also concerned about one of his servants who is in distress. So much so that this Roman centurion seeks the help of a Jewish rabbi, certainly unheard of in his world. He approaches Jesus not with power and control over him, but humble and in need of the authority he knows only Jesus has. It's a pretty amazing display of faith, and one that doesn't go unnoticed by Jesus. Our Lord says, "Truly I tell you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith."

As Christians we want to have authority over others and even authority in our culture and world. We look around and see that things are not as they should be. We want the world to be healed from it's distress, and made whole in peace. Yet, perhaps our approach should be as the centurion.

If we come giving orders, making demands and insisting on our own way then how will we be heard by those we are trying to help? If we assume that we have control over someone or something, and try and exercise our authority in places where that authority isn't recognized, then perhaps our hopes go unanswered? I wonder if the third definition is most fitting...

What we really hope is that our knowledge of God and the love of Jesus Christ might inform and encourage others to seek faith. When we are humble in sharing what we know to be true with openness and honesty, then we testify to the authority we are under, so that others might see. This is the true root of our authority. This is the best approach to influencing people, and culture, and politics, and education, and policy, and a whole host of other things. Be humble, submitting to the authority of Jesus Christ so that others might see and give glory to God.

Jesus has authority over all things. This is how this story about authority ends... "That evening they brought to him many who were possessed with demons; and he cast out the spirits with a word, and cured all who were sick. This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah, 'He took our infirmities and bore our diseases."

Thanks be to God for the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom all things are made well!


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