If we conducted an opinion poll with children raised in Christian homes, chances are that not many would list parental authority as a blessing. This would be a great tragedy! Authority is a gift of God to his people and especially to families. Authority is often abused on the one hand and grossly neglected on the other. However, it is important not to frame one’s view of biblical authority based on the abuses of others.
Human authority is a daily object lesson that all of creation is under the authority and rule of the Lord of the Universe. However, viewing authority as gift requires something of an attitude adjustment for many. The world, under the direction of Satan (Ephesians 2:1-3) wants authority to be viewed as arbitrary, uncaring, stifling, and cruel. Authority is said to curtail imagination, stunt creativity, restrict freedom, and diminish individual worth. The dynamic duo of existentialism and post-modernism has thrived under these misconceptions of biblical authority. These misconceptions have filtered down to families.
In contrast let’s see how the Bible speaks about authority. There are many things to consider about what the Bible says about authority. Here we will look at just three of them. The first thing to remember about Biblical human authority is that it is derived and not earned. Husbands are not necessarily people of better character than their wives. Parents are not necessarily better people than their children. Law enforcement officers are not automatically more honest than those they protect. These positions of authority, and every other form of authority, are established by Christ. (Colossians 1:15-20) So, our respect for authority is not directly tied to the person in authority, but to the Person who established that authority.
Secondly, human authority reminds us that all of creation is subject to the rule of God. We all live and die at God’s will and pleasure. This is not a popular notion in our culture, but it is true.
Thirdly, the next thing to consider about authority is that is established by God for our benefit. In 2 Corinthians 13:10 Paul says that God has given authority to build up and not to tear down. Building up is a primary benefit of authority. Too often parents think of authority as a tool for controlling children so that things are orderly or as a mechanism to justify punishment for wrong doing. If this were what authority primarily and practically means then God is not honored and children are not blessed.
Paul says that authority is to be used to build up. This means that to exercise authority biblically, much thought, consideration, and prayer must be given concerning how to accomplish this. Paul echoes his directive in 2 Corinthians 13 with these words in Ephesians 4:29:
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
Building up is done with pleasant words. Words that are crafted to build up according to the needs of the hearer are indeed pleasant words. These are true words of authority. Tell me, is this passage dominating your heart when you exercise authority over your children?
Situations are different in each family. But the need for kind, constructive, building authority is the same in all families. You see, when you exercise authority, you are speaking directly for God. You certainly cannot claim that children should obey you because of your wonderful character or flawless track record. When you exercise authority it must be done in the name of Christ and none other. Authority is about building up, it is about leading your children to cross of Christ. When you exercise authority, you are speaking directly for God. Authority is about building up, it is about leading your children to cross of Christ. Biblical authority must be exercised with humility or it becomes something ugly and tyrannically self-serving.
Your goal must not be to push children to serve your personal agendas, no matter how well meaning they may be. You must use your God-given authority to exalt Christ and build up your children in love. Pleasant words are what mark a humble use of authority. There is so much more to say about a biblical use of authority, but perhaps these thoughts will be enough to spur you to begin this journey. Perhaps your children will come to bless and thank God for his loving gift of parental authority.
Please let me know your thoughts!