I recently returned from a wonderful time at Together for the Gospel (T4G) with over 11,000 in attendance. The conference encouraged me over the years as a pastor. There was always wonderful teaching, worship, fellowship, and books. Lots and lots of books! It was a balm to my soul.
One talk this year was particularly helpful in thinking about authority. As I listened, I found myself thinking about all of the parents today who seem uncomfortable with the authority God says that we have. Much of this can be traced to a misunderstanding of the nature of authority that our culture pushes.
The following are my own thoughts mixed in with some of the speaker’s thoughts. His thoughts are in quotation marks.
Let’s start with a definition. Authority is the right and responsibility to rule. As a parent you have both the right and responsibility to lead your family well. You, not the children, should be in charge.
1. Authority can be used badly.
We live in a world in which authority has been misused. Husbands hurt their wives. Adults abuse children. Perhaps you have had an unfair boss or a domineering pastor. Stories of misused authority surround us because authority surrounds us and sin surrounds us.
As a result, it is easy to equate authority with abuse. Perhaps you were harshly disciplined as a child and you have determined that you will never do something like that to your children. Or perhaps you were given no structure. In this case, authority was negligent to properly protect you. And you vow to do something differently.
Therefore, we unwittingly reject using our authority. But in each case, the problem is not authority but bad use of authority. The answer is not no authority, but good use of authority.
2. Our parental authority is to be used for good.
There has always been and always will be authority. God is the ultimate authority and we are dependent upon him. We should willingly submit to his loving authority.
“Authority is built into our world. We are born dependent on others. We must be fed and learn everything from others. The very order of life speaks of our being under authority.”
Therefore, as parents, we are shepherds under the chief shepherd. Our rule is to reflect God’s rule.
3. Good authority is rooted in the fear of God.
“Only when we are under God’s authority are we fit to be in authority over others. Accountability to the One over us should keep us from abusing others. Righteousness breaks down when there is no fear of the Lord.” I think we are seeing this in our country right now.
“Learning to be under authority well will enable you to be in authority well. Do whatever you can to grow in the fear of the Lord.” Thus one reason we raise our children to love and honor us is not because we are on a power-trip. We are training their character for later years when they can both be a good authority and be a good follower.
4. Good authority bears good fruit.
In our country, authority is equated with abuse.
“We all want good authority. Children want good teachers who keep control of their classrooms. We all love good coaches who are fair, loving, and push us to our best. Children flock to the home where there is order and love.”
I have written an article here about how psychological studies have shown that children flourish best with affirmation and boundaries. This helps us realize that the problem is not authority, but poor exercise of authority.
5. Pray to understand and use your authority well.
The Lord gives us authority to build up (see 2 Cor 13:10). “Being willing to exercise authority will put you in difficult situations.” It is part of servant leadership. Pray for yourself to use your authority well. Like the teacher or coach mentioned above, pray that you will become more skilled in using your authority to bless others. Pray to be humble and to learn to lead well.
As a parent you are an authority. You can’t be afraid to use loving and imperfect authority. Will you use your authority to bless others?