Wednesday, August 4, 2010

By Whose Authority Do YOU Teach?

copyright ©2010 Mitchell Malloy (
Now, I don’t know about you but I can be guilty of extreme reactions when it comes to “authority”. So the extremes are this: 1) resist authority or 2) yield to authority. But what about questioning authority… where does that fit in?
Authority… the word evokes various reactions. For some people, the mere thought of “authority” is like a sound to arms… a call to resist… to rise up and fight… like John Cougar’s “I fight authority” lyrics. For others, it’s a proclamation to comply… to obey… to submit without considering the validity of the order. The academic discipline of Logic recognizes a logical fallacy: Appeal to Authority. The fallacy (or error in reasoning) manifests when a person concludes something similar to this: “[Authority Person] says this is true, therefore it is automatically true”.
Religious systems can often appeal to an authority in providing answers: “the pastor said this, so it MUST be true!” It’s easy for religious authorities to allow this behavior; it strokes the ego. But when the standard religious answers don’t line up with the truth, people become disillusioned and they start to doubt everything.
That’s partly why Jesus upset the religious authorities during His first coming. He spoke with real authority. He over-turned the temple profiteers, and concerned that they were being stripped of power, the “authorities” came to talk with Him:

"By what authority are you doing these things?" they asked. "And who gave you authority to do this?"
 Jesus replied, "I will ask you one question. Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. John's baptism—was it from heaven, or from men? Tell me!"
 They discussed it among themselves and said, "If we say, 'From heaven,' he will ask,. 'Then why didn't you believe him?' But if we say, 'From men'...." (They feared the people, for everyone held that John really was a prophet.)
 So they answered Jesus, "We don't know."
      Jesus said, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things."
~ Mark 11:28:33

The politically adept “authorities” were perplexed by Jesus’ answer, and rightly so! They had been out-maneuvered by Jesus’ answer, and it cemented their commitment to take Jesus out of the picture (i.e. – kill Him). After all, He was successfully challenging all the pat answers and methods with this radical “Kingdom of God” concept, and it didn’t match completely with what they thought it should be.
But here’s a thought: What if Jesus welcomes our questions? What if Jesus’ answer was more than just a shrewd question? What if it was also an invitation to find an answer to their question: “By what authority”? Jesus was, is, and always will be inviting us to know Him better, and I believe the answer to His accusers was an invitation into relationship.
I think it’s interesting that Jesus answered with a question about John the Baptist. My bet is that the religious authorities at the time knew very little about John. Did they know that he was Jesus’ cousin? Did they realize that John was descended from the line of priests that ministered to God in the temple? Had they been aware, would they admit that by their own religious standards, John had authority? Did they know that John recognized Jesus as an even greater Authority? Jesus answered with a question, and had they followed His lead, it would have given them the answer. But they ran away defeated.
So in the midst of this confrontation, there were three possible responses: 1) answer honestly, 2) answer dishonestly or 3) avoid the question. Jesus’ accusers chose to avoid the question, and in the process, walked away in defeat.
How many times do we run away from the answer? God invites us to know Him and His ways, but because we feel trapped, we run away accepting defeat. God places us in a challenging circumstance, and rather than trusting Him to bring us through to a better understanding of His love and power, we seek a way out.
“How can God work out good through [fill in the blank]?!?!?”
As I write this, I am uncertain about many things in life. I desire more certainty, but I recognize His Presence more when my circumstances are less sure. In my weakness, my confidence in His strength becomes more certain.

“That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
~ 2 Corinthians 12:10

Well, maybe, today is the day to taste and see that the Lord is good (Ps 34:8), that He will work out all things for good (Rom 8:28), and that He has appointed you for this moment and place in history (Acts 17:26).
When God answers us with questions, He invites us to know Him better. What is He asking you today?