Friday, August 8, 2008

Spiritual authority

I was reading 2 Cor. 12 today and came across something that's really been challenging to me as a leader. I saw it for the first time a number of years ago, but every time I see it again, it becomes even more clear.

Notice in 2 Cor. 12:21 Paul says,

I am afraid that when I come again my God will humble me before you, and I will be grieved over many who have sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual sin and debauchery in which they have indulged.

In context, Paul is talking about a discipline problem in the church that he established at Corinth. But what is he talking about when he says that God will humble him? Let's look down in the next chapter...

This is why I write these things when I am absent, that when I come I may not have to be harsh in my use of authority--the authority the Lord gave me for building you up, not for tearing you down. - 2 Cor. 13:10

He is talking about the use of spiritual authority. He is saying that exercising spiritual authority is a humbling thing.

We've gotten it all wrong! We seem to think that the exercise of authority is a show of power. We thrown our weight around to show everyone who's boss. We establish the chain of command. And we see this in churches as well as in the world around us. Churches that fall into this mindset end up becoming what we call toxic churches because they end up hurting anyone involved in them.

Paul understood the exercise of authority to be a humbling experience. It wasn't something he wanted to do, but HAD to do. He was writing this letter so he wouldn't have to use his authority.

What I'm trying to say is that the biblical exercise of spiritual authority is not an display of power, but instead an act of humility. It's something we do for the good of the people we're serving; not for our good. The world system, which is concerned with power, prestige and position hasn't figured this out yet!

We need to relearn what Jesus said

The greatest among you will be your servant. - Matt. 23:11

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